Syrian Conflict

Questions (136, 145, 146, 147, 149)

Micheál Martin

Question:

136. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the informal EU Council discussed the latest killings of civilians in Syria; and if there were discussions regarding the way in which the EU, with the international community, can assist with finding a political solution to end the ongoing conflict between President Assad and the Syrian rebels. [10149/18]

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Darragh O'Brien

Question:

145. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the issue of Syria will be raised by him at the next EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9790/18]

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Darragh O'Brien

Question:

146. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the efforts being made by Ireland in relation to the ongoing conflict in Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9791/18]

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Darragh O'Brien

Question:

147. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the recent bombings in eastern Ghouta; the steps that will be taken by the EU and the international community following this attack, which has resulted in a significant loss of life; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9792/18]

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Micheál Martin

Question:

149. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to speak at the next EU Foreign Ministers meeting on the need for increased intervention due to the increased violence and deaths in Syria (details supplied). [9659/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136, 145 to 147, inclusive, and 149 together.

I am extremely concerned by the recent increase in violence in Syria, and in particular the vicious siege of Eastern Ghouta, which has cost the lives of hundreds of civilians in recent days. The barbarity of the attacks by the Syrian regime on its own people, the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure, including homes, hospitals and schools, and the refusal of the Assad regime to allow humanitarian aid in, or injured civilians to leave, has been shocking, even by the standards of the Syria conflict to date.

I can only imagine how terrifying this is for the people there, who have no way to protect themselves or their children, and no way to leave.

On numerous occasions in this House, I have condemned the violence in Syria and I reiterate that condemnation in the strongest terms today.

I attended a UN Security Council briefing on this issue in New York last week, where UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed for an immediate suspension of violence in Eastern Ghouta to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and for evacuations. Ireland strongly endorsed this call, and welcomed the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution on Saturday that called for an immediate ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian access. However, the bombardment of Eastern Ghouta has continued in defiance of this resolution. The international community must redouble its efforts to press for a full and immediate ceasefire, and unhindered humanitarian access to besieged populations in Syria.

The brutal repression of dissent by the Assad regime since March 2011 has cost the lives of almost half a million people so far. Over 13 million people require humanitarian assistance, including close to 3 million people trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. In addition, 5.5 million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries and the region.

The Assad regime and its allies have repeatedly targeted civilians, including through use of “starve or surrender” techniques, forced displacement under the guise of truces, denial of humanitarian assistance and deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure such as schools, markets and hospitals.

Clearly an end to the conflict, and to Assad’s barbarous rule, is urgently needed. Ireland fully supports the UN-led political negotiations to end the conflict based on the 2012 Geneva Communique and UN Security Council resolution 2254, which call for an end to violence; full humanitarian access, a democratic political transition and accountability and transitional justice.

Ireland has consistently supported EU sanctions targeting the regime and its supporters, and will continue to do so as long as the situation on the ground justifies these measures.

EU Foreign Ministers discussed the situation in Syria at their informal meeting on 15 February and again at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 26 February. Ireland added its voice to calls for the immediate and full implementation of the ceasefire demanded by the UN Security Council.

The EU provides direct assistance to the UN-brokered talks in Geneva and has launched, in coordination with the UN, an initiative to develop political dialogue with key actors from the region to identify common ground. The EU and its Member States have to date mobilised more than €10.4 billion for humanitarian, stabilisation and resilience assistance inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, making the EU the largest single donor to the effort. The EU hosted a donors’ conference for Syria in April 2017 at which pledges totalling €5.6 billion were made, and will host another donors’ conference for Syria in April 2018.

Since 2012, Ireland has contributed over €90 million to the humanitarian effort in response to the conflict in Syria, including €25 million in 2017 alone. Through our annual contributions to EU Institutions, Ireland also supports the EU’s humanitarian response to the Syria crisis. Ireland also supports a broad range of efforts to ensure full legal accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria.

Freedom of Information Data

Questions (137)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

137. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of freedom of information requests the Department has received in the past eight years; the number of which were accepted without further escalation and not accepted respectively; the number requested which were not accepted that were escalated to the information commissioner; the number on which the information commissioner ruled in favour of the person requesting the freedom of information; the number on which the information commissioner ruled against the Department; the number the Department appealed to the High Court; the number on which the High Court ruled against the Department in favour of the applicant; the number which were then brought to the Court of Appeal by the Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9292/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Office of the Information Commissioner keeps the operation of the Freedom of Information Act under review and publishes relevant statistics in its Annual Reports. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that, to date, for the 1,096 freedom of information requests received by my Department in the period 2010 to 2017 inclusive the Office of the Information Commissioner did not vary or annul any Department decisions referred to that Office for investigation. The question of my Department appealing decisions of the Information Commissioner to the High Court or to the Court of Appeal does not therefore arise.

The information requested by the Deputy for the eight year period in question is set out in the table.

Requests

Number

Number of freedom of information requests received

1,096

Number of internal reviews of decisions sought

50

Number of review decisions which were subsequently appealed to the Office of Information Commissioner*

20

Number Department decisions which the Office of the Information Commissioner agreed to investigate and subsequently varied or annulled

nil

* Three appeals remain under consideration by the Office of the Information Commissioner

International Relations

Questions (138)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

138. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on Ireland's relationship with the Republic of Uzbekistan; the issues that have been raised with the Uzbek authorities in the past; and his views on the human rights situation there. [9325/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland does not have a resident Embassy in Uzbekistan and there is no Uzbek Embassy in Dublin, so contacts at political and official level with the Uzbek authorities are limited. In the absence of such direct links, our main channels of engagement with Uzbekistan and other countries in the Central Asia region are through the EU, and multilateral fora such as the UN and the OSCE. Trade flows are negligible.

Ireland fully supports the EU’s policy of increased cooperation with the countries of the Central Asia region as set out in Council Conclusions which were published last June. While welcoming the progress achieved in developing relations with individual countries, including Uzbekistan, the EU recognised the serious challenges to human rights in the region. To this end, the EU reaffirmed the crucial importance of continuing meaningful dialogue on good governance, the rule of law and human rights.

Since his election in 2016, the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev has launched significant reforms of the judiciary, administration and security services. Several human rights defenders have been released from prison and, in May, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Uzbekistan for the first time. The authorities have also resumed cooperation with Human Rights Watch, which had previously been banned from working inside Uzbekistan. In a further welcome development, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media visited the country late last year.

In a meeting with President Mirziyoyev in November, EU High Representative Mogherini commended the significant reforms which have taken place since 2016 and expressed the EU’s full support in turning these initiatives into concrete results.

Ireland fully endorses this position. We will continue to monitor developments in Uzbekistan and ensure that focused attention is given to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law.

Military Aircraft

Questions (139, 140)

Clare Daly

Question:

139. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of military aircraft that requested to land at an airport here in 2017; and the number that were granted permission to land, by month, country of origin and the airport they landed at. [9339/18]

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Clare Daly

Question:

140. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of military aircraft that passed through Irish airspace without landing at an airport here in 2017, by month and country of origin. [9340/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 140 together.

The Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order gives the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade primary responsibility for the regulation of activity, both landing in the State and overflying the State, by foreign military aircraft. During 2017, my Department received 515 requests for landings by military aircraft at airports in Ireland. Of the 515 landing requests received, 1 was refused and 15 were cancelled.

During 2017, there were 1,749 overflights of Irish airspace by military aircraft in accordance with permissions granted. The details are set out in the tables below broken down as appropriate.

Landing Details 2017

Country

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Total

Airports

Bahrain

1

1

1 Shannon

Belgium

2

1

3

3 Shannon

Canada

1

1

1

2

2

2

9

5 Shannon,

4 Dublin

Czech

1

1

1 Dublin

Egypt

1

1

1

3

3 Shannon

EU

1

1

1 Dublin

France

3

2

3

6

2

5

3

1

1

5

4

35

17 Shannon, 11 Dublin,

1 Galway,

6 Cork

Germany

3

2

1

1

1

8

3 Shannon,

4 Dublin,

1 Casement

Italy

1

2

2

2

7

5 Shannon,

2 Dublin

Jordan

2

2

2 Shannon

Monaco

2

1

1

1

5

3 Dublin,

1 Casement, 1 Cork

Netherlands

1

1

1

1

1

5

2 Casement, 3 Cork

Norway

1

1

1 Casement

Palestine Auth

2

2

2 Shannon

Poland

2

1

1

4

4 Dublin

Slovenia

1

1

1 Dublin

Spain

2

2

4

4 Dublin

Switzerland

2

2

1 Shannon,

1 Knock

Turkey

1

1

2

2 Dublin

Ukraine

1

1

1 Shannon

UAE

2

2

2 Dublin

United Kingdom

3

2

2

1

2

1

11

2 Shannon,

1 Dublin,

7 Casement, 1 Cork

United States

31

41

49

38

34

25

28

34

35

35

39

16

405

402 Shannon, 3 Casement

Total

40

48

57

51

43

40

34

41

44

48

51

18

515

Over flight details

Country

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Total

Australia

1

2

1

2

6

Bahrain

1

1

Belgium

1

2

5

4

1

6

2

21

Bolivia

1

1

Brazil

1

1

Cameroon

2

2

Canada

1

2

2

5

3

2

1

16

Czech

1

1

1

1

2

6

Colombia

1

1

Cyprus

2

2

Egypt

1

4

1

3

1

3

1

2

2

1

19

France

2

1

2

2

3

4

2

9

9

4

2

2

42

Germany

3

3

3

10

2

7

3

5

4

6

6

1

53

Ghana

2

2

Greece

1

2

2

2

7

Hungary

1

1

2

3

7

India

2

2

Italy

3

1

6

4

4

2

1

3

24

Iran

2

2

Iraq

2

2

2

6

Ivory Coast

1

1

Jordan

2

4

4

2

2

5

5

1

4

2

31

Lebanon

2

2

Luxembourg

1

1

Malaysia

2

2

Mali

1

1

Mexico

2

1

3

Netherlands

2

2

1

1

1

2

9

Nigeria

1

1

Oman

2

2

Pakistan

4

4

Poland

1

1

1

3

Slovak Rep

2

1

1

1

3

2

2

2

2

16

Spain

1

1

2

Switzerland

2

4

2

2

10

Tunisia

2

3

1

2

8

Turkey

2

1

1

4

Ukraine

1

1

UAE

1

1

United Kingdom

2

1

2

5

United States

92

98

71

85

102

129

150

175

156

190

106

66

1420

Vietnam

1

1

Total

106

112

97

109

122

170

174

211

211

225

137

75

1749

Brexit Negotiations

Questions (141)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

141. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive and assembly could hinder the functioning of the backstop contained in Article 49 of the Phase 1 Brexit agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9345/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Joint Report of EU and UK negotiators, published in December, states that in the event that it is not possible to resolve the border issue through the wider future relationship agreement between the EU and the UK, which has always been the preference of the Irish Government as well as that of the UK, or through specific solutions, the UK has committed to maintaining full regulatory alignment with those rules of the Customs Union and Single Market which are required to support North South Cooperation, protect the all-island economy and avoid a hard border.

The guidelines agreed by the European Council in December called on negotiators to complete work on the withdrawal issues and to start drafting the relevant parts of the Withdrawal Agreement. This work has been ongoing since December. The Withdrawal Agreement, when finalised, will be legally binding and will reflect the principles and commitments agreed in phase one, including on the Irish specific issues.

It is expected that the first draft of the Withdrawal Agreement will be published by the Commission shortly and that this will give legal effect to the commitments made on the Irish specific issues in the Joint Progress Report. The draft will then be discussed internally by EU Member States in preparation for negotiations between the EU Task Force and the UK.

The Good Friday Agreement remains the indispensable framework for providing stable, inclusive, power-sharing government for all the people of Northern Ireland, and for sustaining the interlocking relationships on these islands - within Northern Ireland, on the island of Ireland and between the UK and Ireland.

The Government has consistently affirmed our unwavering commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, and our determination, as a co-guarantor of the Agreement, to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.

As co-guarantor of the Agreement, the Government will continue to engage with the British Government and the political parties in Northern Ireland to support the urgent formation of a new Executive by the mandated political parties.

Brexit Negotiations

Questions (142)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

142. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the nature of the implications for ongoing regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and Britain, as set out in Article 50 of the Phase 1 Brexit agreement, in the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive and assembly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9346/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In the Joint Report of EU and UK negotiators, published last December, the UK made a number of commitments and guarantees, including ensuring there would be no border infrastructure of any kind or associated checks and controls on the island of Ireland. In addition to commitments on Irish-specific issues, the UK made commitments across the other two exit issues; citizens’ rights, and the financial settlement.

The UK Government must now decide how to give effect to the commitments outlined in phase one of the Article 50 negotiations. In December, the European Council was clear that negotiations in phase two can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken in the first phase are respected in full and translated into legal terms as quickly as possible.

The guidelines agreed by the European Council in December called on negotiators to complete work on the withdrawal issues and to start drafting the relevant parts of the Withdrawal Agreement. This work has been ongoing since December. The Withdrawal Agreement, when finalised, will be legally binding and will reflect the principles and commitments agreed in phase one, including on the Irish specific issues.

We expect the first draft of the Withdrawal Agreement to be published by the Commission shortly. It will then be discussed internally by EU Member States in preparation for negotiations between the EU Task Force and the UK.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Questions (143)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

143. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his Department's capital allocation in each of the years from 2018 to 2022; and the areas to which funds will be allocated in each of those years. [9520/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a total capital allocation of €13 million in 2018, under the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2018, across its two Votes (Vote 27 - International Co-operation and Vote 28 – Foreign Affairs and Trade).

Under the recently published National Development Plan 2018 - 2027, the Department will have capital allocations in the period 2019 - 2022 as follows:

2019 - €17 million

2020 - €13 million

2021 - €13 million

2022 - €14 million

As set out in the National Development Plan 2018 - 2027, the Department’s Strategic Capital Investment Priorities for the period 2018 - 2022 will be as follows:

- Further announcements as part of the Doubling Our Global Footprint Initiative;

- The Passport Reform Programme, 2016 - 2019;

- Investment in ICT, and

- Investment in the State’s Global Property Portfolio, including the development of Ireland Houses with the State Agencies and the relevant Embassy in strategic locations.

Travel Documents

Questions Nos. 145 to 147, inclusive, answered with Question No. 136.

Questions (144)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

144. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a person can travel to the United Kingdom with only his or her public services card; the conditions of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9530/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Passport Service of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for the issuance of passports to Irish citizens and for the maintenance of the security and integrity of the Irish passport. Immigration or administrative requirements for entry into other States, including what documentation is acceptable for those purposes, are not matters within the competence of my Department.

Ireland and the United Kingdom share a Common Travel Area and as such, a passport is not necessarily required for travel. The requirements of individual airlines and ferry companies may vary as concerns which forms of photographic identification, other than a passport, they may accept as proof of identity for travel between Ireland and Great Britain.

Questions Nos. 145 to 147, inclusive, answered with Question No. 136.

Passport Applications

Questions (148)

Seán Fleming

Question:

148. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when a passport will be issued to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9953/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act 2008 (“the Act”). The Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him/her. In order to meet this legal requirement, each person must demonstrate an entitlement to Irish citizenship in his/her passport application. Entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by the terms of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 as amended (the 1956 Act).

The application to which you refer was submitted on 9 January this year. The Passport Service wrote to the applicant's parents on 24 January requesting that the application form be re-submitted as it was incorrectly completed. The Passport Service also requested that the essential supporting documentation be provided with the new application form in respect of the requirement to establish the citizenship of the child applicant.

Further information on the documents required are listed on the Passport Service website at: www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/top-passport-questions/documentary-requirements-passport-applications/.