EU Bodies

Questions (92)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

92. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach the criteria for nomination of the Irish members of the European Economic and Social Committee; and if future appointments will be subject to public advertisement through State boards or other public means. [52158/18]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is an advisory body whose function is to represent economic and social interests in the Union’s decision-making process.

The EESC has 350 members, who are drawn from economic and social interest groups in Europe. Members are nominated by national governments and appointed by the Council of the European Union for a renewable five year term of office. The latest renewal was in October 2015, for the 2015-2020 term of office.

The number of members is in proportion to the country’s population. Ireland has nine places on the EESC. Members are independent and perform their duties in the interest of all EU citizens.

The EESC has a tripartite structure reflecting broad groups of members to facilitate the organisation of its work and its decision-making. Group I compromises representatives of employers, Group II compromises representatives of employees, and Group III compromises representatives of various interests. My Department invites nominations to the Committee and manages the expressions of interest. The Government approves nominations, which are forwarded to the Secretariat of the Council.

As a new term of EESC is not due to commence until October 2020, I am not in a position to comment on any future nomination procedure at this point in time.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (93)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

93. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if correspondence sent to him by the parent of a member of the Defence Forces was received (details supplied); when a response to this correspondence will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51571/18]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

A reply to the correspondence referred to by the Deputy has been issued this week.

Air Corps Equipment

Questions (94)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

94. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding the replacement of CASA maritime patrol aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51786/18]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

The White Paper on Defence provides for the replacement of the two CASA 235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft with consideration of their replacement with larger more suitable aircraft, which would enhance maritime surveillance and provide a greater degree of utility for transport and cargo carrying tasks. A public tender competition for the replacement of the CASA Maritime Patrol Aircraft is under way in my Department at present, following the publication of a  Request for Proposals on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) in May. The cost of the aircraft will only be known once the tender competition is concluded.

The Deputy may wish to note that the White Paper  also provides for the replacement of the current Air Corps Cessna fleet with three larger aircraft which will be equipped for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR). Following an open tender competition, a contract was placed with Pilatus Aircraft Ltd in December 2017 at a cost of some €32 million for the provision of three PC-12 fixed wing utility aircraft suitably equipped for ISTAR tasks which will replace the Cessna fleet. It is expected that the three aircraft will be delivered by 2020.

In accordance with the National Development Plan, the capital allocation for Defence has been increased to €106 million for 2019, an increase of €29 million. The NDP provides for a total of €541 million over the period 2018 to 2022. This level of capital funding will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service as identified and prioritised in the Defence White Paper and builds on the significant investment programme over recent years. The replacement of the Air Corps Cessna aircraft and the CASA 235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft are among the projects included.

Defence Forces Pensions

Questions (95)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

95. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the basis on which it is deemed that his Department has a right to continue recovery of a compensation award by the courts some 30 years ago by way of continued 40% reduction in a disability pension from the Defence Forces in the case of a person (details supplied) in view of the fact that the person's alleged liability to his Department has been almost repaid; if it is planned to restore the person's disability pension to full payment; if the practice of reclaiming a compensation award granted by the courts to members of the Defence Forces will be discontinued on the basis that the award was recognition for pain and suffering on the part of the claimant, that this does not diminish with the passage of time and the need to discontinue the practice of recovering injury awards by way of reduction of disability pension payments to the members of the forces concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51791/18]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

Section 13(2) of the Army Pension Act 1923 provides that any compensation received from or on behalf of the person alleged to be responsible for the act which caused the wounding may be taken into consideration in fixing the amount of any pension, allowance or gratuity awarded to an individual under the provisions of the Army Pensions Acts. The underlying objective of section 13(2) is to take into consideration awards (compensation, pension, gratuity or allowance) made ‘on the double’ from any source for the same disablement and not the recovery of injury awards as such.

In relation to the Deputy’s comments that the annual reduction in the disability pension now exceeds the amount of compensation awarded as a result of civil proceedings, the position is that the adjustment under section 13(2) was decided by the then Minister for Defence following consideration of all of the circumstances of the case, including the annuity value of the compensation awarded. The annuity value was obtained from an actuarial assessment and was based on various assumptions including the date the money was received and the life expectancy of the individual.

I am satisfied that the decision in this case was in line with the relevant statutory provisions.

Brexit Issues

Questions (96)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

96. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has formally met his UK counterpart to discuss Brexit and its impact on east-west trade reciprocal arrangements and all other Brexit related matters that fall within the remit of his Department; the number of times they have formally met to discuss Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51884/18]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The outcome of the vote of 23 June 2016 in the UK will have implications across all aspects of the business of the European Union. While the vote does not give rise to fundamental strategic issues for Defence Forces operations or for Ireland’s continuing engagement within the EU in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), it is expected that Brexit will have an impact on future developments in the Defence sphere.

Brexit is a priority issue for this Government, and the Taoiseach, my cabinet colleagues and I have taken every opportunity to engage with EU partners and the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities.

I have continually engaged with my EU counterparts to highlight Ireland’s concerns in relation to Brexit and to ensure that these concerns are fully reflected in the EU position during negotiations. My activities are reinforced by extensive engagement at diplomatic and official level. At Ministerial level I have ongoing contact with my EU colleagues, both in the context of European Defence and Security, and other matters, including Brexit.

Over the course of the year, my UK Ministerial counterpart has continued to be party to the relevant CSDP discussions at both formal and informal Ministerial meetings. On a bi-lateral basis, while in London last month I paid a courtesy call on the UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces, the Rt. Hon. Mark Lancaster TD MP, where areas of mutual interest covered by the UK-IRL MoU on aspects of defence co-operation were the main focus of our discussion. I also regularly meet with my UK Colleague en marge of EU Ministerial meetings.

Parking Provision

Questions (97)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

97. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of car parking spaces provided for staff working within Dublin, Limerick and Cork city and to agencies therein. [52008/18]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The Department of Defence has twenty seven (27) car parking spaces for staff working at various locations in Dublin.

At the Department's offices in Clonmel Street, which we share with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Irish Aid, we have five (5) car parking spaces.

The staff of the Office Of Emergency Planning, located at the National Emergency Coordination Centre in Agriculture House, have access to four (4) car parking spaces on a first come first served basis.

The Civil Defence Phoenix Training Centre, in the Phoenix Park, has eighteen (18) car parking spaces for staff and volunteers attending training courses.

There is also parking available to the members of the Defence Forces serving in Cathal Brugha and McKee Barracks and St. Bricin's medical facility in Dublin, in Collins Barracks and Haulbowline Naval Base in Cork and in Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick.

EU Directives

Questions (98, 99, 102)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

98. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a survey has been carried out of hours worked, hours on stand-by and hours on study leave the members of the Defences Forces of different branches and rank carry out; if so, if an average or approximate average was calculated; and if he will provide the survey or calculations in this regard. [52025/18]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

99. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the average hours worked by EODs per week; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some EODs are expected to work a 72 hour shift or be on duty and or call for periods of up to seven days without a break; and his views in this regard. [52026/18]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

102. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a study has been carried on the costs of implementing the working time directive in the Defence Forces; if the establishment figure target was reached; and his views in this regard. [52029/18]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98, 99 and 102 together.

The Government has committed to bringing the Defence Forces within the scope of the Working Time Directive. As I have previously informed the Dail, a Government Decision dated 18 November 2016 approved the drafting of the Heads of Bill to amend the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. This will remove the blanket exclusions contained in Section 3 of the Act. Implementing the Working Time Directive is a complex process. To that end, work is under way in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in conjunction with the Department of Defence and the Department of Justice and Equality towards the progression of this decision.

The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces have undertaken significant work in examining the nature of the duties of the Defence Forces and how the Working Time Directive can be applied to the members of the Defence Forces. An audit of Defence Forces' activities was conducted and this audit encompassed the work of EOD personnel. Further consideration of implementation issues is ongoing.

For reasons of operational security, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the disposition and specifics relating to hours worked on Explosive Ordnance Disposal duties. Furthermore, as these duties are currently the subject of litigation in connection with the Working Time Directive I am similarly not in a position to comment on same.

The Defence Vote contains sufficient funding to accommodate a strength of 9,500 personnel. As work on the implementation of the Working Time Directive is ongoing, costings on implementation are not yet available.

Defence Forces Training

Questions (100)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

100. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel who are trained EODs; and the number of vacancies. [52027/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

For reasons of operational security, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the disposition and specifics of the Defence Forces' Explosive Ordnance Disposal capabilities.

Air Corps Training

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 98.

Questions (101)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

101. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of apprentices in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell, County Dublin; the number of vacancies that exist; the ideal number to ensure that vacancies and staffing levels in the relevant positions in the Air Corps can be filled in the near future; and his views in this regard [52028/18]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I am informed by the military authorities that there are currently 61 apprentices in training in the Air Corps and 92 vacancies for technicians at Airman Rank.

Challenges exist in recruiting and retaining certain specialists such as Pilots, Air Traffic Controllers, and certain Technicians. These specialist can prove difficult to retain where, as in the current economic environment and jobs market, there are demands for such specialists in other sectors. This is a challenge being faced by military forces elsewhere and is not confined to Ireland.

In this context, there is ongoing recruitment to replace personnel who depart and recruitment to the Permanent Defence Force continued throughout 2018.

The Public Service Pay Commission has been tasked with examining recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces and its findings will be considered when provided.

The Government is committed to retaining the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and overseas.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 98.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (103, 104, 105)

John Lahart

Question:

103. Deputy John Lahart asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of women and men, respectively, employed in his Department and the agencies under the remit of his Department in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52052/18]

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John Lahart

Question:

104. Deputy John Lahart asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the various grades in which males and females are employed in his Department and the agencies under the remit of his Department in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52069/18]

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John Lahart

Question:

105. Deputy John Lahart asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the ratio of males to females employed in his Department and the agencies under the remit of his Department in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52086/18]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 to 105, inclusive, together.

The number and grades of men and women employed in my Department on 7 December 2018 as civil servants is as follows:

Grade

Men

 Women

Total 

 Secretary General

1

 Assistant Secretary

3

0

 Director

0

1

 Principal

11

6

17 

 Assistant Principal

26 

20

46

 Administrative Officer

3

2

 Higher Executive Officer

26

44 

70 

 Executive Officer

24

82

106 

 Clerical Officer

15

82 

97 

 Service Officer

10

0

10

 Total

119 

237

356

In addition I wish to advise that my two advisors, both of whom are men, are appointed in the grade of Principal in an unestablished capacity.  The Army Pensions Board is an independent statutory body established under the Army Pensions Act, 1927 whose secretariat is provided from within Department of Defence staff.  The staff employed in the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces are included in Department of Defence staffing numbers.

Consular Services

Questions (106)

Gino Kenny

Question:

106. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the plight of a person (details supplied); the steps he has taken to investigate and assist in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51710/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I can confirm to the Deputy that I am aware of this difficult and long-running consular case and have been in written contact with the citizen’s family here in Ireland. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been providing extensive and ongoing consular assistance to the family of this citizen since first being made aware of the case. Officials from my Department have met regularly with this citizen’s family, and most recently on 28 November 2018. My Department will continue to provide all possible and appropriate assistance in relation to this difficult situation.

EU Issues

Questions (107, 109)

Niall Collins

Question:

107. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions taken at national and EU level in view of the shrinking of civic space and freedom of democracy in Hungary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51542/18]

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Niall Collins

Question:

109. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions taken at national and at EU level in view of the reduction of civic space and freedom of democracy in Hungary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51627/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 109 together.

The European Parliament adopted the Sargentini report, on 15 September last - a reasoned proposal inviting the Council to determine whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the European Union is founded. The Hungarian Government has issued a written response in relation to this report. The Commission has provided a paper on the values-related infringement procedures that it has taken to address concerns with the situation in Hungary.

At the General Affairs Council meeting on 11 December, Ministers will have an exchange of views on these documents and the next steps forward. Ireland has previously made its concerns known in relation to issues surrounding the rule of law and recent legislation targeting non-governmental actors in Hungary.

I note the announcement on 3 December by the Central European University that it will be relocating to Vienna from Budapest from next January. Academic freedom is one of our fundamental values within the Union and it is a source of regret that an academic institute feels it has no other choice but to leave an EU Member State in order to continue its operations.

At this time of many challenges facing the Union it is more important than ever that we stand by our shared values.

Consular Services

Question No. 109 answered with Question No. 107.

Questions (108)

Clare Daly

Question:

108. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department has been involved in dealing with allegations of abuse regarding a person (details supplied). [51617/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I can confirm to the Deputy that I am aware of this difficult and long-running consular case and have been in written contact with the citizen's family here in Ireland. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been providing extensive and ongoing consular assistance to the family of this citizen since first being made aware of the case. Officials from my Department have met regularly with this citizen's family, and most recently on 28 November 2018. My Department will continue to provide all possible and appropriate assistance in relation to this difficult situation.

Question No. 109 answered with Question No. 107.

Brexit Issues

Questions (110)

Micheál Martin

Question:

110. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the recent European Court hearing on Article 50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51640/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

On 10 December, the European Court of Justice gave its judgement that the UK can revoke its Article 50 notification, unilaterally, at any point up to its withdrawal from the Union. The Court made clear that it would have to be an unequivocal and unconditional decision, taken in accordance with the UK’s constitutional requirements. Were the UK to decide to revoke, the withdrawal procedure would be ended and the UK would remain an EU Member State.

Ultimately, any decision to revoke its Article 50 notification would be for the UK, and it would not be appropriate to comment on what would be an internal matter for it.

The EU and UK have agreed a withdrawal agreement and political declaration on the framework for the future relationship. Our focus is on seeing this deal ratified and implemented.