Human Rights Issues

Questions (41)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

41. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which the international community is actively engaged in and committed to achieving a resolution to the issues in Nigeria which have resulted in the abduction and possible imprisonment by the Boko Haram of large numbers of women and girls; if action is being taken to deal with the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28717/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I remain seriously concerned by the worsening security situation in Nigeria. I have strongly condemned the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from the northern Nigerian town of Chibok by the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, on 14 April. I am also appalled by continuing reports of violent attacks, including further abductions, throughout Nigeria.

I have given my full support to the clear demands of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, and the High Representative of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, that the girls abducted in Chibok be released and that those responsible be brought to justice. I welcome the support now being provided to the Nigerian authorities from a number of our EU partners and from the USA, to help find the missing schoolgirls.

At its meeting in Brussels on 12 May, the EU Foreign Affairs Council underlined the EU’s concern at the terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria, strongly condemned the abduction of the schoolgirls and called for their immediate and unconditional release. The Council emphasised the EU’s readiness to support the Nigerian authorities in the resolution of this crime and their ongoing efforts to defeat terrorism in all its forms, in full respect of human rights.

On 26 May, the EU agreed to fund a further series of measures, including the provision of technical assistance to the Office of the National Security Advisor to implement and coordinate counter terrorism legislation and crisis management structures, and to develop capacity to address the issue of increasing radicalisation and recruitment.

On 22 May, the UN Security Council Al Qaida Sanctions Committee approved the addition of Boko Haram to its list of individuals and entities subject to targeted financial sanctions and an arms embargo. With effect from the 29 May, the EU added Boko Haram to the lists of groups covered by the freezing of funds and economic resources.

The Boko Haram group has been condemned by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States. In May 2013, the International Criminal Court determined that allegations of crimes by Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces could be considered within the scope of the Statute dealing with war crimes in internal armed conflict. The United Nations Office for West Africa is also working to integrate UN supports in the region to assist Nigeria’s efforts.

Our Embassy in Abuja, working in cooperation with EU and other key partners, is in close contact with the Nigerian authorities, who have the primary responsibility for the resolution of the case of the missing school girls and of the broader security situation. We will continue to support every effort being undertaken by the Nigerian Government to counter radicalisation and terrorism within its borders, to resolve the specific case of the abducted schoolgirls and to promote full respect for human rights.

Middle East Peace Process

Questions (42)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

42. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which each side in the stalled Middle East peace process has recognised and acknowledged the full extent of prisoners held by them; the efforts to date made to ensure basic human rights are observed in respect of such detainees; if the international community has had access to such prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28718/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The issue of prisoners has been and is a difficult element of the Middle East Peace Process, as indeed it was in our own case. The release of a number of longer term Palestinian prisoners held by Israel was an element in the arrangements for the recent talks process, and the non-release by Israel of the final group of prisoners was an element in the breakdown of those talks.

We have discussed many times in the Oireachtas the many causes for concern that international standards for detention of prisoners are not fully met. This is true of prisoners held by Israel, by the Palestinian authority, and indeed much more widely throughout the region. In some cases this reflects the general need in the broader region to improve standards of human rights protections, in some cases it relates to the specific circumstances of the conflict in the area. Ireland and our EU partners work in these cases, as we do elsewhere, to encourage and press the parties to adhere fully to international standards.

Prisoners in Israeli and Palestinian custody are normally able to meet their legal representatives in the usual way. It is my understanding that the International Red Cross is also able to visit prisons and prisoners, and has not alerted us to any difficulty in this regard.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (43)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

43. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the current position in Southern Sudan; the extent to which the international community has found it possible to engage with the various parties with a view to dealing with human rights abuses, war, famine and starvation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28719/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

South Sudan is one of the poorest states in Africa. Years of conflict and underdevelopment, accentuated by the violence that erupted in December 2013 have resulted in the current humanitarian crisis. In early June 2014, the number of people reported to be displaced by the current crisis in South Sudan was over 1.4 million, including 1,038,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). The security and humanitarian situations in South Sudan are a serious concern for the international community. The European Union, through the efforts of its Special Representative for the Horn of Africa Alexander Rondos as well as its Embassies in the region, is actively engaged with international efforts to resolve the conflict in South Sudan. The EU has supported mediation efforts by the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The conflict and ongoing humanitarian crisis in South Sudan has been discussed by the European Union Foreign Affairs Council on a number of occasions since the outbreak of violence there in December 2013, with an in-depth discussion held most recently on 17 March 2014.

On 15 May 2014 the African Union and the EU jointly welcomed an agreement to resolve the crisis in South Sudan signed by President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar on 9 May 2014. The EU and the African Union also urged the two sides to fully implement all agreements that have been signed to date, including the 23 January Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. EU Development Ministers further discussed the crisis with High Representative Catherine Ashton on 19 May.

Moreover, we have been working with the United Nations to protect civilians and provide humanitarian relief wherever possible. The UN Security Council unanimously agreed on 27 May 2014 to reorient the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to focus on the protection of civilians. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) co-hosted the Humanitarian Pledging Conference for South Sudan in Oslo from 19 to 20 May, at which donors pledged more than $600 million. Ireland pledged €2 million at the Oslo conference, to support life saving work of UN and NGO partners in the country, and this pledge has been fulfilled. In total, Irish Aid funding for the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan amounts to almost €5 million to date in 2014. Our support has saved and continues to save many lives.

Five members of the Irish Permanent Defence Force are currently deployed for service with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) at UNMISS and my Department has also deployed a number of civilian experts to the UNMAS mission through the Rapid Response Initiative.

Ireland will continue to advocate at all relevant international fora for increased support to the humanitarian relief effort both within South Sudan and for South Sudanese refugees and host communities in neighbouring countries. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide assistance, within our means and as the situation evolves.

Ukrainian Conflict

Questions (44, 45)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

44. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the situation in the Ukraine continues to be monitored by the EU and the international community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28720/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

45. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the EU continues to liaise with the Russian authorities in the context of ongoing issues in eastern Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28721/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 45 together.

The situation in Ukraine is a priority for the EU and we continue to monitor the situation there closely. Member States are resolved to do all they can to help facilitate an inclusive and negotiated settlement and have actively engaged in efforts to promote dialogue between all sides, including the Russian Federation, since the outset of the crisis. Now that the EU’s relationship with Ukraine has been strengthened by the signature of the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area at the European Council on Friday, it is important that we continue to actively encourage progress towards peace and stability.

Ukraine was a major focus of discussions both at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 23 June and at the European Council on Friday of last week. The Foreign Affairs Council, which I attended, was briefed on recent developments in Ukraine by its newly-appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin, while President Poroshenko met with EU Heads of State and Government during the European Council on Friday. The EU used these occasions to voice its strong support for President Poroshenko’s 15-point peace plan, which was announced on 20 June, and to encourage all sides to adhere to the ceasefire that was unilaterally declared by the Ukrainian Government.

I welcome the positive role played by EU leaders in promoting dialogue between the Government of Ukraine and the Russian Federation. On Sunday, Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande engaged in a two-hour telephone conversation with President Poroshenko and President Putin in order to promote progress towards the full implementation of the peace plan. The EU institutions have also played a constructive role in facilitating dialogue. In particular, the Commission chaired talks between Russia and Ukraine on the issue of gas supplies last month. Although the parties have yet failed to reach an agreement, the EU Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, has contacted both sides in recent days to encourage them to return to the negotiating table.

The European Council last Friday also expressed its support for the OSCE monitoring of the implementation of the peace plan in Ukraine as well as for its role in supporting the ceasefire and the establishment of effective border controls. Nationally, Ireland is providing €100,000 to OSCE activities in Ukraine and has contributed significant numbers of personnel to OSCE projects, including five members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and 16 observers of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission which oversaw the Presidential elections on 25 May.

Syrian Conflict

Questions (46)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

46. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his EU/UN colleagues remain committed to efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28722/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland remains fully committed to a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria. Although reaching a political resolution is a difficult challenge, it remains the best option and the only alternative to the further intensification of the military conflict. UN Secretary General Ban is likely in the near future to announce a new Special Representative to replace former Joint Special Representative Brahimi who stood down at the end of May. The UN will continue to play a central role in efforts to chart a political resolution to the conflict in Syria, in conjunction with the members of the UN Security Council and all relevant international and regional stake-holders, including the EU.

We support Resolution 2139 on the humanitarian situation in Syria which was approved by the UN Security Council in February, for which we had been calling for since last autumn. The latest report on the implementation of Resolution 2139 sets out very clearly that the fundamental obstacles to the provision of humanitarian assistance remain in place across Syria, and that the parties to the conflict remain in breach of international law. This resolution makes absolutely clear the obligations and duties on all parties, especially the Assad regime, to uphold humanitarian principles and international law. Full compliance without any further delay by all parties is the only acceptable response to the resolution.

Ireland has so far disbursed over €28 million in humanitarian relief since the beginning of the Syrian conflict. The denial of access for humanitarian relief to the civilian population by the parties to the conflict is unacceptable and must end. So must such barbaric practices as besieging communities and attempting to starve them into submission.

There must be full accountability for the very many horrific violations of human rights perpetrated against the Syrian people throughout this long conflict. We have consistently called on the UN Security Council to refer the many allegations of war crimes to the International Criminal Court and very much deplore the use of the veto by two Security Council members last May on a resolution calling for referral to the International Criminal Court.

Egyptian Conflict

Questions (47)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

47. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the situation in Egypt remains a matter for concern at EU level with particular reference to the need to ensure the restoration and recognition for basic human rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28723/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I have made clear on a number of occasions my concerns over the current human rights situation in Egypt. These concerns are widely shared by our EU partners, as should be clear from the firmly worded Conclusions on Egypt adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 10 February. While welcoming the adoption of the new Egyptian constitution in January, the Council deplored the absence of a fully inclusive process leading up to the referendum as well as expressing concern over the deteriorating human rights situation and the continuing use of selective justice against the political opposition.

Concern over human rights within Egypt has only intensified in the light of a series of extremely harsh sentences passed recently by the Egyptian courts. Ireland shares the widespread deep concern which has been expressed by many in the international community, including High Representative Ashton on behalf of the EU, regarding these verdicts and the clear failure to observe basic international standards governing the right to a fair trial.

The human rights situation in Egypt was also considered at the March session of the UN Human Rights Council. Ireland was one of eighteen EU MSs who associated with a strong cross-regional statement delivered during the session outlining concerns about the human rights situation and urging the Egyptian government to fully comply with its international obligations as well as fully implement the human rights provisions contained in the new Constitution. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights has also visited Egypt on a number of occasions in recent months in order to discuss and encourage stronger efforts on the part of the Egyptian authorities in upholding and safeguarding human rights.

EU Enlargement

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 40.

Questions (48)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

48. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the situation in the western Balkans continues to be monitored by the EU with a view to ensuring that progress towards eventual EU membership continues for the countries in the region in return for a commitment to the acquis communautaire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28724/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The European Union follows very closely the situation in the countries of the Western Balkans, as they undertake significant reforms to prepare to join the Union. The enlargement process is founded on the Copenhagen criteria, which reflect the Union’s founding values: peace, democracy, the rule of law, respect for fundamental rights, and a functioning market economy. Countries wishing to join the Union are assessed according to these criteria and their ability to take on the obligations of membership by successfully adopting, implementing and enforcing the cumulative body of EU laws, otherwise known as the acquis communautaire .

The European Commission very closely monitors the progress of EU candidate and potential candidate countries, preparing Annual Progress Reports that are discussed by Member States in Council and in the European Parliament. Enlargement is regularly discussed by Ministers at the General Affairs Council. At the most recent General Affairs Council meeting on 24 June 2014, for example, Member States decided to grant Albania the status of candidate country, a decision that was endorsed by the European Council last Friday.

Ireland remains very supportive of EU enlargement, one of the EU’s most successful policies, promoting peace, prosperity and stability in candidate and potential candidate countries. Together with our EU counterparts, we will continue to support the countries of the Western Balkans, as they undertake the reforms necessary for eventual EU membership.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 40.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (50)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

50. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the situation in Colombia continues to be monitored by the international community; the extent to which progress in the peace process continues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28726/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I continue to follow closely developments in Colombia’s peace process. Together with European Union and UN colleagues, I welcome progress made to date and I encourage the parties to the talks to continue their work with a view to securing a comprehensive peace agreement as soon as possible.

Three areas of the negotiations are now subject to provisional agreement. These are the agenda items dealing with land reform and rural development, political participation and illicit drugs. Negotiators are now discussing issues relating to victims.

On 7 June last, the Government of Colombia and the FARC issued a joint declaration on shared principles for discussing issues relating to victims. In this way, the parties to the talks have agreed to place concerns relating to the victims of the conflict at the heart of their discussions.

I join with EU and UN representatives in welcoming this significant development. The EU’s readiness to support Colombia at this critical juncture in the peace process and in the implementation of a peace agreement has also been reiterated.

I understand that the UN will have a role in this process as the Government and the FARC have requested that the UN organise consultations with victims. The negotiators have indicated that they will invite a victims’ delegation to the meet with negotiators.

Ireland will continue to follow closely developments in the Colombian peace process and to work with the international community to support a negotiated solution to the conflict in Colombia.

Humanitarian Aid

Questions (51)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

51. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which bilateral and multi-lateral aid programmes continue to be monitored to ensure donated aid goes directly to those for whom it was intended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28727/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As Minister of State with responsibility for Ireland’s Official Development Assistance, I am keenly aware of the need to have a high level of assurance that our development assistance reaches its intended beneficiaries, and makes a real difference in the lives of the poorest people. Ireland’s Policy for International Development, One World, One Future, which was launched just over a year ago, reaffirms our commitment to maximizing the impact and accountability of the aid programme.

To ensure that our assistance is effectively delivered to those most in need in developing countries, Irish Aid works in partnership with national and local Governments, local communities, NGOs, and key multilateral partners such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Accountability and transparency is at the core of all we do. All programmes considered for funding assistance are rigorously appraised by Irish Aid staff using clear criteria, including efficiency in the use of resources, cost effectiveness and sustainability of intended impact. Programmes in receipt of funding are subject to regular internal and external monitoring to ensure that the intended objectives and goals are being achieved. They are regularly monitored by Embassy-based internal auditors, independent experts, and the Evaluation and Audit Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Unit’s work is regularly reviewed by the independent Audit Committee of my Department. In addition, the Comptroller and Auditor General provides independent assurance that Overseas Development Assistance is provided in accordance with the law, is managed to good effect, and is properly accounted for. Moreover, peer reviews by the OECD have clearly stated that Ireland’s aid programme is of the highest quality, characterised by its focus on poverty reduction and building the capacities of poor communities and national institutions in some of the poorest countries in the world.

Strengthening institutions is a key element in maximising the impact of the aid programme. Accordingly, in Key Partner Countries benefiting from our support, we provide assistance to national Government oversight institutions, such as the Auditor General’s Offices and the Public Accounts Committees of National Parliaments, to ensure governments are held to account for the effective expenditure of public funds.

The Irish Aid programme, managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, proactively manages risks and has a strong focus on value for money, transparency, accountability and sustainable results. In the event of any fraud such as happened in Uganda in 2012, it is policy to demand a full refund of monies misappropriated. As the Deputy will be aware, the Government of Uganda has fully refunded the €4 million in aid funds which were misappropriated.

Trade Agreements

Questions (52)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

52. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his Department continue to strengthen existing trade and forge new markets throughout the European Union and globally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28728/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

My Department has responsibility for the Export Trade Council, which I chair, and which works to strengthen cooperation and coordination across all Government Departments and State agencies involved in the promotion and development of trade, tourism and investment and to oversee the coordination and implementation of the Government Trade, Tourism and Investment Strategy. On 24 February 2014 I launched a review of that strategy which was coordinated by my Department. A copy of the document was circulated to all members of the Oireachtas and the document is available on my Department’s website.

The review provides an update to our numerical targets and re-aligns our list of priority sectors so that they are aligned with the Action Plan for Jobs. It also introduces a ‘new market approach’, which disaggregates the list of our priority markets and includes additional high potential and exploratory markets to ensure that Ireland also engages with high growth markets in Asia, South America and Africa. In order to achieve our targets, the review provides a revised ‘action plan model’, which recognises the responsibility of Government to provide the best possible platform for companies and State agencies to win business overseas. These changes emphasise the positive benefits that accrue through maximising the coordination between Embassies and State agencies in the field and our coordination at home.

Alongside its foreign policy, diplomatic and consular functions, the Embassy network is a key platform for the promotion of Ireland’s trade, investment and tourism objectives. Recognising this role, the Government decided in January 2014 to open eight new Embassies and Consulates on five continents. Embassies will be opened in Bangkok (Thailand), Jakarta (Malaysia), Nairobi (Kenya) and Zagreb (Croatia), along with the reopening of Ireland’s Embassy to the Holy See. Consulates-General will be opened in Hong Kong (China), Austin (Texas, US) and Sao Paolo (Brazil). These new Embassies and Consulates will equip Ireland to take advantage of emerging opportunities in these important markets.

A detailed report of the work of the Embassy network in this area was published earlier this year and I have arranged for a copy to be forwarded to the Deputy’s office.

Diplomatic Representation

Questions (53)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

53. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the international community continues to liaise with the authorities in Iran with a view to encouraging democratic principles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28730/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In recent years the growing polarisation over the nuclear issue, and the isolationism of the Iranian authorities, has made it very difficult to discuss or progress issues relating to human rights, civil society, democratic principles etc.

The new Government in Iran has made some welcome statements on improving the protection of human rights. Ireland and our EU partners would strongly encourage any such moves in Iran, and indeed I have myself discussed with Foreign Minister Zarif the possibility of resuming the EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue, which was suspended in 2004. My Department has also provided the Iranian Foreign Ministry with information on human rights protection and mechanisms in this country.

We have yet to see significant improvement on the ground in human rights. It may be that the new leadership’s focus on trying to resolve the nuclear issue, and avoid negative domestic backlash, is limiting their ability to act concurrently in this sphere. But human rights is very much an area where positive words must be followed up with actions and changes on the ground, and this is an area we will continue to monitor closely, along with our EU partners.

I would hope also that if agreement can be reached on the nuclear issue, as now seems at least possible, this may help to act as a confidence building measure for better relations in other areas as well.

Consular Services Provision

Questions (54)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

54. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when a permission to marry abroad certificate will be issued in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28732/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The application referred to by the Deputy, for a Certificat de Coutume (civil letter of freedom), was received in the Consular Section on 24 June, 2014.

As my Department receives a large number of applications for such certificates we request that applications be submitted no later than four months before the date of the intended marriage to allow sufficient time for processing

I understand that the application concerned was only received six weeks before the date of the intended marriage.

I further understand that the applicant has been in contact, on numerous occasions, with the Consular Section of my Department and has been assured that while the application is late, it will be processed in time for his marriage provided all the necessary paperwork is in order.

I am advised that this application is currently being processed and, if everything is in order, the certificate will be issued to the applicant by registered post within the next two weeks.

Mortgage Data

Questions (55)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

55. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the nature of the mortgages sold by Bank of Ireland (ICS) to Dilosk Limited that are PDHs or buy to lets. [28564/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Bank of Ireland made an announcement to the stock exchange in relation to the agreement to sell the ICS distribution platform, together with a mortgage asset pool of €250m, to Dilosk Limited. The full announcement can be found at:

http://www.bankofireland.com/fs/doc/wysiwyg/eu-restructuring-plan-update-26-june-2014.pdf

The additional analysis requested by the Deputy was not included in this announcement and I have been advised by the Bank that it does not intend to disclose further details beyond what has been announced to the Stock Exchange.

Tax Rebates

Questions (56)

Eamonn Maloney

Question:

56. Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Finance the funding the Revenue Commissioners distributed in 2013 under the tax refund scheme relating to voluntary contributions to schools; the number of schools that benefitted; the number of contributions that were made by persons in the PAYE system; and the number of contributions that were made by self-employed persons. [28568/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that Section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for a scheme of tax relief on donations to eligible charities and other approved bodies. 

Revenue has also confirmed to me that all schools providing education, based on a programme prescribed or approved by the Minister for Education and Skills, are approved bodies for the purposes of the scheme and any refunds made during 2013 are related to donations made in 2012 and/or the previous three years.

The precise arrangements for allowing tax relief on donations made in 2012 and earlier years varied depending on whether the donor was a PAYE only taxpayer, a chargeable person subject to self-assessment, or a company. For a PAYE only donor, the relief was paid directly to the eligible charity or approved body on a 'grossed up' basis, based on a claim submitted by the body in question rather than by the individual PAYE donor. In the case of a self-assessed donor, the individual personally claimed the relief at the applicable rate as there was no 'grossing up' arrangement in place for the self-employed sector. In the case of a company, it claimed a deduction for the donation as if it were a trading expense.

The scheme was amended in the 2013 Finance Act and under the new arrangements, which operate in respect of contributions made from 2013 onwards donations by both PAYE and self-assessed donors will be treated similarly. The donations will be 'grossed' at a blended tax rate of 31% and the tax will be repaid directly to the charity or approved body in the same manner as previously operated in respect of PAYE only donors. The arrangements for corporate donations did not change in the 2013 Finance Act and the tax relief will continue to be available to the company.

Details of refunds made to schools by PAYE donors in 2013 are included in the table below. The amounts contributed by self-assessed donors are not available at this time.

PAYE Refunds made to Schools under the Donations Scheme in 2013

Amount Refunded

Number of Schools who received a Refund

Number of PAYE Donations

€1,113,990

152

4,816

VAT Rate Application

Questions (57)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

57. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Finance if he will exempt community-based fund raising activities from the 23% VAT rate which currently exists particularly when such activities are voluntarily led with a view to supporting persons or communities who are fund raising to support terminal or serious illness (details supplied) in communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28583/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I understand that the fundraising activity in question has utilized text messaging as its main vehicle for facilitating donations. In this context, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that charitable donations made by text message, excluding any fees charged by the telecommunications provider or other service provider, are outside the scope of Irish VAT.  However, any fees charged by the telecommunications service providers in connection with the facilitation of donations are liable to VAT at the standard rate of 23%. The VAT treatment of charitable donations made by text message is set out in Revenue's eBrief 29/11 which is available at http://www.revenue.ie/en/practitioner/ebrief/archive/2011/no-292011.html .

While the important work carried out by charities and community groups is well recognized, such groups are exempt from VAT under the EU VAT Directive, with which Irish VAT Law must comply. This means that they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services which they purchase.

Mortgage Arrears Report Implementation

Questions (58)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

58. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if the sale of ICS loans to Dilosk Ltd. includes the entire ICS loan book; if it includes the entire mortgage platform; if the value of the total transfers from ICS will match the assessment of the value he gave Dáil Éireann during recent debates of €1 billion. [28608/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I can confirm for the Deputy that Bank of Ireland has agreed to sell a portion of the ICS loan book to the value of €250m to Dilosk Limited. The entire ICS loan book is c€6bn.

In addition, Bank of Ireland has agreed to sell the ICS distribution platform to Dilosk Limited. The distribution platform includes the ICS brand, the broker contacts and contracts, and the IT system.

I indicated in the Dail recently that Bank of Ireland had committed to the sale of up to €1bn of mortgages, at  the option of the acquirer of the distribution platform. The agreement to sell €250m of mortgages is within this range.  

Banking Sector

Questions (59)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

59. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the way the sale of ICS loans to Dilosk Ltd. will help create greater competition in the mortgage sector as the company itself states it has a particular focus on residential investment properties for buyers of family homes as opposed to buy to lets. [28609/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Dilosk Limited has stated the following on its web site:

"The Company will offer mortgages to borrowers seeking to purchase or refinance residential property with a particular focus on residential investment properties (i.e. Buy-to-Let)."

This is an important segment of the overall residential mortgage market. With the reduced number of lenders currently operating in the market, any new entrants are to be welcomed as they will obviously increase competition to the ultimate benefit of the consumer.

Mortgage Data

Questions (60)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

60. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance further to the sale by Bank of Ireland of its ICS Building Society loanbook to Dilosk Limited, if he will, as a substantial shareholder in Bank of Ireland, confirm the number of mortgages that were sold; the par value of the loans; the sale price; the number of loans classed as being impaired; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28616/14]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Bank of Ireland made an announcement to the Stock Exchange on 26 June in relation to the agreement to sell the ICS distribution platform, together with mortgage assets, to Dilosk Limited.

In this announcement, the Bank confirmed that the mortgage assets involved amounted to €250m, were performing, and were sold at par.

The full announcement can be found at:

http://www.bankofireland.com/fs/doc/wysiwyg/eu-restructuring-plan-update-26-june-2014.pdf

The number of mortgages sold was not included in the announcement and I have been informed by the Bank that it does not disclose details beyond what has been announced to the Stock Exchange.