Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Questions (651, 652, 653, 654, 655)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

651. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 112 of 26 January 2017, the steps that have been taken to prepare a new call for roster members; if he will publish criteria in advance for membership and arrange for competitive interviewing and testing to ensure only roster members who are able, competent, committed and willing to undertake missions are appointed; when he expects to publish the new call; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20848/17]

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Eamon Ryan

Question:

652. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the assistance and support his Department provides to independent observers not on the current roster who volunteer their expertise to observe elections overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20849/17]

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Eamon Ryan

Question:

653. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if election observers are obliged to furnish tax clearance certificates prior to undertaking missions supported by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20850/17]

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Eamon Ryan

Question:

654. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department conducts Garda vetting on persons supported by his Department going overseas on election observation missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20851/17]

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Eamon Ryan

Question:

655. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department has a process by which election observer roster members can be removed; if so, the number who have been removed from the current roster; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20852/17]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 651 to 655, inclusive, together.

International election monitoring missions play an important role in the promotion of democracy and human rights. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains a roster of individuals who are available to participate in election observation missions organised in the main by the OSCE and the EU.

The election observation roster was established for a five year period following a public call for applications in May 2013. It is expected that it will operate until May 2018. Officials will work on the details relating to the criteria and methodology in respect of the call for applications for the new roster. It is anticipated that these will be finalised before the end of the year and a public call for new applicants will issue shortly thereafter. Details will be published on the Irish Aid website (www.irishaid.ie) and existing roster members and those who have expressed an interest in receiving details about the next roster will also be advised.

In 2013, following an independent appraisal process, the 200 successful candidates and the 10 members of the reserve panel were advised that membership of the roster was subject to Garda vetting and acceptance of the Irish Aid Code of Conduct. On foot of the subsequent Garda vetting process of these applicants, all but two individuals on the list were confirmed.

Officials of the Department are in regular contact with the OSCE and EU election Focal Points and also participate in the European Observation network which brings together election observation Focal Points from all EU Member States together with Norway, Switzerland and Canada. The network facilities the exchange of information on all aspects of election rosters and missions.

If specific complaints or issues relating to observers are brought to the attention of officials, these would be fully investigated and if found to be proven and significant or in breach of the Code of Conduct signed by roster members, the individual roster member would be removed from the election roster. Since the formation of the roster, no such complaints have been received.

Members of the roster who are nominated by the Department to undertake election observation missions do not receive remuneration. They are paid a daily allowance to cover the cost of food, accommodation and all other out-of-pocket expenses, together with the pre-departure grant of €600 to cover associated expenses. The Department does not seek tax clearance certification from observers prior to participation in a mission.

The Department deploys members of the roster and, from time to time, officials who work on the relevant geographic desks, on election observation missions, organised under the auspices of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The election observation roster is the only means through which we provide a structure to support Irish election observers. A number of independent NGOs also deploy monitors to observe elections throughout the world and the Department is aware of a number of Irish nationals who have deployed on such missions. These individuals can avail of consular advice and assistance, but would not be eligible for the supports, including payment of travel and subsistence costs, which are only paid to members of the roster who have succeeded in being selected for the election roster.