Northern Ireland

Questions (48)

Seán Fleming

Question:

48. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Taoiseach if the issue of a referendum on a united Ireland or a Border poll is included on the national risk register; if the risk committee that prepared this register examined this issue; if so, the assessment and determination; the reason this issue is or is not included on the risk register; and if a Department supplied information in respect of including this issue to those involved in drawing up the national risk register. [11717/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Issues in relation to Northern Ireland are considered as part of the annual National Risk Assessment. Although a border poll would not be regarded as a risk, and the very important and sensitive policy issues related to it would not be dealt with in the Risk Assessment process, the question of relationships on the island of Ireland, and between the two islands, are always considered as part of the annual National Risk Assessment. The National Risk Assessment was one of the first official acknowledgements of the risks posed by a potential Brexit including associated risks for Northern Ireland.

Since the National Risk Assessment was first introduced, these issues have featured prominently, and been supported by accompanying text, in the published annual Report as follows:

National Risk Assessment

Relevant Risk:

2014

Geopolitical: ‘Uncertainty over UK’s relationship with the EU and enhanced devolution within the UK’

Geopolitical: ‘Terrorist incidents and Armed Conflict’

2015

Geopolitical: ‘Uncertainty over UK’s relationship with EU’

Geopolitical: ‘Devolution and related political developments in the UK’

Geopolitical: ‘Terrorist incidents and Armed Conflict’

2016

Overview: ‘Possible Effects of Brexit’

Geopolitical: ‘Brexit/Uncertainty over UK’s relationship with EU’

Geopolitical: ‘Northern Ireland and Devolution in the UK’

Geopolitical: ‘Terrorist Incidents and Armed Conflicts’

Economic Risks: ‘Trading Relations with the UK’

2017

Geopolitical: ‘Departure of the UK from the EU’

Geopolitical: ‘Instability in Northern Ireland and changes to constitutional makeup of the UK’

Economic Risk: ‘Impact of Brexit on vulnerable sectors of economy’

Social Risk: ‘Migration and integration’

2018

Geopolitical: ‘Departure of the UK from the EU’

Geopolitical: ‘Instability in Northern Ireland’

Economic Risk: ‘Impact of Brexit on vulnerable sectors of economy’

Social Risk: ‘Migration and integration’

Work has now commenced on the 2019 Report, but is at an early stage. There will be extensive consultation and stakeholder engagement throughout its development, with the Draft Report published for a 4 week public consultation period in April, and an Open Policy Forum will also be held in May. A significant volume and range of risks, including in relation to Northern Ireland, will therefore be discussed and considered over the coming months, before the final National Risk Assessment Report for 2019 is published by July.

Defence Forces Parades

Questions (49)

Jack Chambers

Question:

49. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that members of the Reserve Defence Force in some counties are being prevented from and not authorised to participate in St. Patrick's Day parades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11469/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

All requests for Reserve Defence Force participation in St. Patrick's Day parades are considered by my Department.

The Military Authorities accede to the requests made to my Department for Defence Forces participation in St. Patrick's Day ceremonial events, based on Units' ability to commit resources within means and capabilities. Despite the vast majority of requests being granted, unfortunately there are some which cannot be resourced.

Defence Forces Medicinal Products

Questions (50, 51)

Clare Daly

Question:

50. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to comments by the chief medical officer of the Defence Forces (details supplied); and if soldiers have been disciplined for falsely claiming to be sick from taking Lariam in view of those comments. [11543/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

51. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to comments by the chief medical officer of the Defence Forces (details supplied); and if a complaint has been made to An Garda Síochána regarding outside groups encouraging soldiers to make fraudulent claims to be suffering side effects from Lariam in view of those comments. [11544/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 51 together.

It would be inappropriate to comment on individual medical matters. There is litigation pending before the Courts which is being managed by the State Claims Agency on behalf of the Minister for Defence, taken by current and former members of the Defence Forces in relation to allegations of personal injury due to their consumption of Lariam. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment further.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Questions (52)

Clare Daly

Question:

52. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the estimated cost of backdating claims for Army Rangers, chefs, accountants and recruits to the dates recommended by adjudicators in each case. [11879/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

There are a number of outstanding Adjudication findings across the Public Service which cannot be implemented at this time having regard to the provisions of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009-2015.

The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, provides for consideration of a process to address any outstanding adjudications, having due regard to the question of their continued validity and cost implications.

The Official side had discussions with PDFORRA on the process, under the Conciliation and Arbitration scheme. Pursuant to these discussions the High Court has granted PDFORRA leave to seek Judicial Review.

As this matter is currently the subject of High Court proceedings, it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this time.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Questions (53)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

53. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 5 March 2019, the breakdown of the expenditure on capability development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11959/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

The 2019 Vote 36 (Defence) provision of €70m for Capability Development, is part of the allocation of €541m to Defence under the National Development Plan for the period 2018 – 2022. This investment will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, as identified and prioritised in the White Paper.

The following major priority projects are being progressed in 2019:

- Mid-life upgrade of the Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) fleet (estimated spend in 2019 - €15m);

- Procurement of Fixed Wing Utility aircraft (Pilatus) as replacement for Cessna aircraft (estimated spend in 2019 - €19m);

- Procurement of replacements for the two CASA 235 Maritime Patrol aircraft (Contract not finalised);

- Commencement of the mid-life refit programme of the Naval Service vessels LÉ Niamh and LÉ Róisín (estimated cost of the mid life refit programme is some €20m with part of this incurred in 2019) and ongoing planning for the acquisition of a multi-role vessel.

In addition, during 2019, investment will continue on various other equipment renewal and replacement programmes, including force protection, weapons and ammunition systems.

The major capital projects are multi annual and expenditure timeframes are dependent on the achievement of certain milestones. I am satisfied that the allocation for Capability Development for Vote 36 (Defence) in 2019, as part of the investment in Defence under the National Development Plan, will allow the Defence Organisation to continue a programme of sustained equipment replacement across the Defence Forces as identified and prioritised in the White Paper and ensure that the Defence Forces have the capabilities necessary to deliver on all the roles assigned by Government.

Naval Service Vessels

Questions (54)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

54. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding the mid-life refit of the LÉ Róisín. [12048/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

The P50 class of vessels in the Naval Service ship flotilla were built in Appledore Shipyard in the UK. LÉ Róisín (P51) was commissioned in 1999, with LÉ Niamh (P52) commissioned in 2001.

Along with the rest of the Naval Service fleet, both of these vessels undertake a variety of functions in the maritime domain in accordance with the role assigned to the Naval Service by Government. This encompasses the provision of support to other Government Departments and Agencies such the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners and the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority. All Naval Service vessels are multi-tasked in the sense that, in addition to their fishery protection role, they also undertake general surveillance, security, pollution monitoring, and search and rescue in support to the Irish Coast Guard, amongst other duties while on patrol. These activities assist in detecting and preventing emergency situations throughout Ireland's maritime jurisdiction. In addition to performing assigned tasks in Irish waters, both LÉ Róisín and LÉ Niamh have been deployed to the Mediterranean in recent years as part of Operations Pontus and Sophia.

The service life of an Irish Naval Service ship is determined by the level of operational activity, but usually is around 30 years. It is, however, normal practice in a ship’s life to carry out a mid-life refurbishment / extension programme so as to extend the useful life of a ship to thirty (or more) years.

The P50 class vessels, 20 and 18 years old this year, now fall into the category of ship requiring a mid-life refurbishment / extension programme. Due to their age profile, much of the auxiliary equipment onboard is coming to the end of its useful life or is becoming obsolete and requires to be replaced in a structured manner.

In this regard the Naval Service have, along with my Department, been planning for a Mid-Life Extension Programme for this class of vessels. This planned programme of works will ensure that both vessels will maintain their operational capabilities and reliabilities. Works are due to commence this month on LÉ Róisín.

Defence Forces Review

Questions (55)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

55. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to conduct an independent external review of the Defence Forces human resources management in view of the retention crisis in the organisation. [12147/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

I am satisfied that there is in place a suite of measures that provides a satisfactory framework within which matters relating to Human Resources in the Defence Forces can be addressed as needs arise.

The Government tasked the Public Pay Commission with examining challenges relating to recruitment and retention in the Defence Sector in more detail. The Public Service Pay Commission has commenced this work and I await the outcomes of their findings.

The White Paper on Defence sets the defence policy agenda over a ten year period. It includes a broad programme of human resources development for which work is already underway on many projects.

In addition to the above, I meet with senior civil and military management on a frequent basis to discuss all matters relating to the Defence Forces.

There are currently no plans in place to conduct an independent external review.

Defence Forces Pensions

Questions (56)

James Browne

Question:

56. Deputy James Browne asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a person (details supplied) is entitled to a combined pension for service with a number of defence-related bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12312/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

The pension entitlements of former members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) are governed by the Defence Forces Pensions Schemes. In general, the minimum service required by a non-commissioned officer or private of the PDF who enlisted prior to 1 April 2004, to qualify for a pension is 21 years, or 12 years if discharged on medical grounds. I am advised that the individual in this case was discharged from the Defence Forces in 1994, at his own request, after 13 years’ service. As he had less than the required minimum service, he was not eligible for a pension under the rules of the Schemes. He was however paid a 'short service' gratuity, in accordance with the relevant rules.

Service in the FCA (Reserve Defence Force) prior to 1974 is not reckonable for pension purposes. After 1974 there is provision for service on full-time security duties in the FCA to be reckoned for pension purposes, subject to fulfilling certain conditions.

In relation to the request to amalgamate service in the PDF with service in the Department of Justice and Equality the position is that there is a Public Sector Transfer Network of which both this Department and the Department of Justice and Equality are members. This Network allows for the transfer of service for pension purposes, subject to certain conditions.

My Department has been in contact with the Department of Justice and Equality regarding the case of the individual referred to. Unfortunately, based on the preliminary information obtained to date, it would appear that this case does not satisfy the required conditions. My Department is however examining all matters, including the possibility of full time service in the FCA, in more detail and will be writing to the individual concerned in the near future to set out the position.

Brexit Expenditure

Questions (57)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

57. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the funding expended by his Department in promoting and hosting all Getting Ireland Brexit Ready events to date; the costs associated with advertising, design work, photography, event staging and venue hire, print and online media advertising and public relations in tabular form; the budget allocated in his Department for the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready events with respect to promotional activities in 2018 and 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12420/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Since my appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in June 2017, I have overseen and co-ordinated a sustained intensification of Brexit preparedness. As part of these efforts, the Government has organised “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready” public information events around Ireland to inform and advise about Brexit preparedness and the range of support measures and resources that the Government has put in place.

These events brought together over a dozen Agencies and their parent Departments – the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport - under one roof to inform and advise both citizens and businesses.

The events also attracted significant domestic and international (in particular UK) media coverage which afforded an opportunity to highlight Ireland’s overall approach and specific concerns in relation to Brexit.

The Getting Ireland Brexit Ready events in question took place in Cork on 5 October, Galway on 12 October, Monaghan on 19 October, Dublin on 25 October, Limerick on 23 November and Letterkenny on 30 November. Having participated at each event, I am pleased to confirm that they attracted very strong participation by a combined total of approximately 2,500 attendees.

The positive impact of the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready events and the Government's ongoing public information activities in relation to Brexit preparedness is reflected in an increase in the uptake of the many Brexit Business supports that are offered by State Agencies. For example, over 4,000 companies have availed of the Enterprise Ireland Brexit Scorecard facility as a first step in developing their Brexit plan. Similarly, over 1,000 SMEs have directly engaged with the InterTradeIreland Brexit Advisory Service so far in 2019; this is in addition to the 4,175 engagements in 2018.

Other Brexit preparedness-related public information activities and events continue to be organised by Government Departments and State Agencies across Ireland. Since September 2018 there have been over 80 such events across 20 counties. Relevant details on these activities and events and on Brexit preparedness more generally can be found via the gov.ie/brexit website.

To coincide with the ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ events held to date, there was also a sustained public information campaign which ran on radio, in print media, online and via social media channels. This campaign ensured that citizens and businesses were informed of the measures available to them.

In organising each event, every effort was made to ensure that costs were kept to the necessary minimum and that they achieved the best value for money. Costs that have arisen directly in connection with the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready events held so far and costs for the accompanying public information campaign activities for which invoices/confirmed costings have been received are as follows:

Item

Totals

Venue Hire, Catering & Related

€69,242.84

Event Staging / Audio-Visual Equipment (OPW)

€101,595.73

Event Materials / Signage / Badging

€22,964.30

Photography / Video / Podcast

€17,252.85

Advertising & Design

€294,859.18

Other

€2,086.47

Total

€508,001.37

Northern Ireland

Questions (58)

Micheál Martin

Question:

58. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has spoken to a family (details supplied) since a British Supreme Court ruling. [11930/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government has noted the important judgment of the UK Supreme Court in the Finucane case on 27 February last, including the declaration that an investigation compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights has not been held into the murder of Pat Finucane.

The Finucane family and the British Government will wish to consider this judgment in full. The Government is also examining the judgment closely.

The Taoiseach and I were pleased to meet with the Finucane family in recent months to confirm the Government’s ongoing support for their search for truth and justice. My Department remains in ongoing contact with the family at this time.

The Taoiseach confirmed on 27 February that the Government’s position remains that an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane should be established, in line with the political commitments made by the British and Irish Governments at Weston Park in 2001. The Government has made this position consistently clear to the British Government, and will continue to do so.

I met with the UK Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington MP, in Dublin on 28 February and, as part of our discussions, I raised the UK Supreme Court judgment the previous day and the Government's position that an independent public inquiry is required in the Finucane case. I also raised the matter in my meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley MP in London on 6 March. The Government's position will also be reaffirmed to the British Government in writing, taking account of the UK Supreme Court judgment and declaration in the Finucane case.

The case of Pat Finucane is being discussed today by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg, under the McKerr group of cases which concern the effectiveness of investigations into Troubles-related deaths in Northern Ireland and the UK's obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights. The Irish national statement will reaffirm the Government's support for a re-opening of supervision by the Committee of Ministers in the Finucane case in accordance with the request of the applicant, Geraldine Finucane. The Irish statement will also re-affirm the Government's position that a public inquiry into the case should be established, consistent with the commitment made in this respect by the British Government under the Weston Park Agreement of 2001.

My thoughts are with Geraldine Finucane and her family who have had to campaign unceasingly over the last 30 years, simply seeking to establish the full facts behind the loss of their loved one. The efforts of the Finucane family, pursued with courage, dignity and resilience, are replicated in different ways by many other families across all sections of the community, North and South, East and West, who continue to seek truth and justice following the loss of their loved ones in the dark years of the Troubles.

The legacy of the past still needs to be fully addressed, and this must be done in a way that meets commitments made to all victims and survivors, including by implementing the Stormont House Agreement and by honouring the commitments made at Weston Park nearly 18 years ago.

The Government will continue to engage with the British Government to seek progress with outstanding commitments and issues, to comprehensively address the legacy of the past and meet the needs and expectations of victims and survivors.

Election Monitoring Missions

Questions (59, 64)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

59. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if information on a series of matters (details supplied) regarding the types of person on the 2019 election observation roster will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12555/19]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

64. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will address a matter regarding the election observation roster (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11704/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 64 together.

The Department maintains and administers a roster of suitably skilled individuals who are available to participate in election observation missions organised, mostly, by the EU and OSCE. A new roster was set up in January further to a Call for Volunteers which issued in July 2018.

Members of the roster are expected to be of good character. Prior to their circulation regarding election observation missions, those who have been shortlisted for roster membership are subject to security vetting in conjunction with the National Vetting Bureau. That vetting process is ongoing.

Roster members who participate in election observation missions are expected to behave professionally and impartially and to demonstrate sound judgement. Members of the roster are volunteers; the restrictions placed on civil servants in relation to political activity do not apply to volunteer roster members (unless of course the individual concerned also happens to be a civil servant). It is to be expected, and indeed welcomed, that a roster formed in a plural society would contain a broad range of opinion, consistent with Ireland’s international obligations on freedom of expression.

Middle East Issues

Questions (60)

Niall Collins

Question:

60. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the recently published UN report that indicated the actions by Israeli authorities in respect of protests in Gaza may amount to war crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11593/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In response to the violent incidents in Gaza last summer, I called for an independent investigation of these tragic events. Ireland subsequently supported moves at the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry into the events. I therefore welcome the fact that the Commission has now published its Report.

The Commission has clearly carried out its task in a careful and professional manner, and I commend them for their work. It is regrettable that the Israeli authorities decided not to cooperate with the Commission in any way, including refusing allowing the Commission members to enter Gaza. All Governments should cooperate with relevant HRC processes.

Their Report makes for sombre and deeply disturbing reading. While there is clearly a dispute over the events in Gaza last summer, leading to some element of genuine uncertainty about some specific events, I believe the Commission Report provides a reasonably authoritative account and analysis of what happened. Over a prolonged period of some months of demonstrations near the border fence, Israeli army sharpshooters shot over 6,000 people, killing 183 of them. While the majority were shot in the legs, suggesting some attempt to use non-lethal force, many suffered life-changing injuries, including loss of limbs. Some persons were shot close to or at the border fence, but many were some hundreds of metres inside Gaza, and some were up to a kilometre from the fence. Victims included women, children, and identifiable medical workers and journalists.

The Report suggests that Israeli authorities had reason to be concerned at a possible mass incursion into Israel, and to prepare for it, but also that this did not occur. Only a small fraction of the demonstrators were engaged in any such action. Very many of those shot were demonstrably not posing any serious threat when they were shot.

The Report instances some cases of violence on the part of some demonstrators, mostly stone throwing and the floating of incendiary devices into Israel, where they started fires in crops and property.

The Report concludes that, in relation to the use of force by Israeli forces under various headings, in at least some cases there are grounds to consider that war crimes may have been committed, in that the use of lethal force was not justified under international law. This would be a question for a court to decide.

The Commission Report therefore confirms the view I expressed in the Dáil on behalf of the Government last summer. I noted that international law allows the use of potentially lethal force by security forces only as a last resort, and when faced with immediate and serious threat. I said it was clear that these limits had not been respected, and that the actions of some demonstrators in no way justified such a violent response. I summed up that "Israel is entitled to defend itself, but it is not entitled to do this." It is no satisfaction to me that the Commission Report now backs up that view.

The Report will now be considered by the UN Human Rights Council.

Middle East Issues

Questions (61)

Niall Collins

Question:

61. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to reports of Israeli authorities withholding Palestinian tax revenue, which would be considered a violation of the Oslo Accords; his views on such matters; if this matter has been raised at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11594/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

On 17 February 2019, the Government of Israel decided unilaterally to withhold the equivalent of 123 million euro in Palestinian tax revenue transfers. This decision is a result of legislation adopted by the Knesset last year that instructs the Government to withhold money equivalent to what the Palestinian Authority pays to Palestinians convicted by Israeli courts of involvement in terrorism or other security-related offences, and to their families.

I also understand that the Palestinian leadership has in response decided to reject all clearance revenue in protest at the funding cut, which no doubt will have repercussions for the Palestinian people who depend on the PA to deliver basic services such as healthcare and access to education.

I am acutely concerned about the worsening financial situation of the PA. Thankfully the impact of its budget shortfall last year was somewhat mitigated by donor aid. This economic insecurity is expected to increase this year, and as we have seen in 2018, the same scale of financial aid by large donors is by no means guaranteed. The financial stability of the PA is inextricably linked to the security of both the Palestinians and the Israelis. I believe that the EU is right to urge the Palestinian Authority to review how it operates its system of payments. However, as I have said before in this House and elsewhere, unilateral moves, such as withholding a huge proportion of the revenue collected on the Palestinian Authority's behalf, seriously undermine the chances for a just and lasting peace.

These are very serious developments that put at risk the financial stability of the Palestinian Authority and ultimately the security of both Israelis and Palestinians alike. EU Heads of Mission in Ramallah, including the Irish representative to the Palestinian Authority, met with senior figures from the Palestinian Authority to discuss this decision.

I reiterate the EU’s call for Israel to honour its obligations under the Oslo Accords, with due regard to the Paris Economic Protocol, which administers the economic and financial relations between Israel and the PA.

I can assure the Deputy that these concerns about the repercussions of this move on the peace process will be raised with Israeli interlocutors.

Passport Applications Data

Questions (62)

Niall Collins

Question:

62. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of persons from Great Britain and Northern Ireland who have applied for an Irish passport in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11595/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Passport Service receives applications through a range of channels, including the online passport application service. The following figures reflect the numbers received through all channels in the years requested.

Year

Applications from Great Britain

Applications from Northern Ireland

2012

45,646

41,124

2013

42,441

44,122

2014

43,449

48,475

2015

47,603

54,026

2016

67,376

68,270

2017

83,115

83,363

2018

98,544

84,855

2019*

28,958

34,669

Figures include applications for both passport books and passport cards.

Please note that any application that requires further documents or clarification may be assigned a later date of registration when the new documents are received. Registration figures are therefore adjusted accordingly and, if such an adjustment takes place at the end of a calendar year, can result in an application being re-assigned to the subsequent year. This explanation will account for variations between the figures provided here and elsewhere, for example, in the response given to PQ 48253/18 which gave the figure of 85,180 applications received from Northern Ireland, as of 31 October 2018.

*Figures are from 1 January to 28 February 2019.

Passport Applications Data

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 59.

Questions (63)

Niall Collins

Question:

63. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the target and actual turnaround time, respectively, for receipt of a passport across all the passport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11596/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The following table summarises the turnaround times for the Passport Service’s main application channels. Turnaround times for individual missions outside Ireland and the UK are omitted as these will vary for each individual mission and are dependent on local postal services.

Type of Passport Application

Target turnaround time

Average turnaround time

Online passport renewal service

10 working days

10 working days

An Post Passport Express renewal application

15 working days

15 working days

An Post Passport Express first time application & application to replace lost/stolen/damaged passport

20 working days

16 working days

Northern Ireland Passport Express renewal applications

15 working days

14 working days

Northern Ireland Passport Express first time application & application to replace lost/stolen/damaged passport

25 working days

29 working days

London Passport Office renewal application

20 working days

23 working days

London Passport Office first time application & application to replace lost/stolen/damaged passport

30 working days

49 working days

Great Britain Passport Express

15 working days

14 working days

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 59.

Legislative Measures

Questions (65)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

65. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to update the Passports Act 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11729/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

There are no immediate plans to make further amendments the Passports Act, 2008 as amended ("the Act”).

The Act is up to-date and reflects any recent legislative changes that impact on the issuance of passports to Irish citizens.

My Department will continue to keep the legislation under review.

Northern Ireland

Questions (66)

Seán Fleming

Question:

66. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the issue of a referendum on a united Ireland or a Border poll is included on the risk register of his Department; if the risk committee of his Department examined this issue; if so, the assessment and determination; the reason this issue is or is not included on the risk register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11752/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The risk management process within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade involves as a matter of course consideration of risks in relation to the political situation in Northern Ireland and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.

The Department's risk management process is outlined in its Risk Management Policy, which is guided by the Risk Management Guidance provided by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Risks facing the Department are identified both at Management Board level and by each business unit and these risks are subsequently interrogated by a Risk Management Committee, the Chief Risk Officer and the Management Board.

The risk management process within the Department is an important management tool which is part of the deliberative process of the organisation and informs, on an ongoing basis, senior management decision making.

In relation to the possibility of a referendum on a united Ireland or a border poll, the principle of consent and the possibility of change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland are fundamental elements of the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by the people of this island North and South.

The Department would note that the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements is a priority for it, and for the Government as a whole. The approach of the Government in relation to Irish unity is of course guided by Article 3 of the Constitution, as amended by the people in 1998.

The holding of a referendum in this jurisdiction is connected with the calling of a border poll, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, in Northern Ireland. While the decision to hold such a poll in Northern Ireland rests with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Government does not believe it likely at present that such a border poll in the near future would result in a decision on the part of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland in favour of constitutional change.

In the event of a future referendum within the consent provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government would make all necessary preparations in accordance with the terms of the Constitution and the principles and procedures of the Agreement.

Human Rights

Questions (67, 69)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

67. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which he advocated for the strengthening of corporate accountability and increased regulation of the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises to ensure the prevention of land and human rights violations in developing countries; if he has referred to the recent report by a charity (details supplied) calling for this approach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11842/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

69. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the UN guiding principles on human rights impact assessments for economic reform policies, which are being debated at the UN Human Rights Council; and his plans for rolling out such principles when adopted. [11948/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 69 together.

In November 2017, my Department launched the National Plan on Business and Human Rights 2017 -2020 to give effect to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Plan is a whole of Government initiative which has been developed with the support and cooperation of a number of Government Departments and State Agencies. Its aim is to promote responsible business practices at home and overseas by all Irish business enterprises in line with Ireland’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights globally. The Plan is directed at Government and State agencies, Irish companies operating at home and overseas, and multinational enterprises operating in Ireland.

My Department has established the Business and Human Rights Implementation Group to oversee implementation of the National Plan over the next three years. Its membership consists of representatives from civil society, the business community, Government and an independent Chairperson. The first meeting of the Implementation Group took place on 16 January 2019 and it is being tasked with taking forward delivery of key action points under each of the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles, i.e. the State duty to protect, corporate responsibility to respect and access to remedy. The next meeting of the Group is due to take place in April.

To aid the work of the Implementation Group, my Department commissioned a baseline assessment of the current legislative and regulatory framework for business and human rights in Ireland from an independent consultant. This assessment identifies key issues for Ireland in a number of areas including worker’s rights, anti-corruption, equality, anti-trafficking, data protection, environment, non-financial reporting, procurement and supply chain. It also assess Ireland’s international commitments in the area of business and human rights. The report makes a number of recommendations which may help guide the work of the Group when implementing the National Plan on Business and Human Rights. The baseline assessment is currently being finalised and will shortly be uploaded to my Department’s website.

Ireland consistently advocates for the right of civil society actors and human rights defenders to operate in a free and safe environment without fear of reprisal. Ireland played a key role in the drafting of EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, adopted during our EU Presidency in 2004. Ireland is also a co-sponsor of the annual Human Rights Defenders resolution at the UN Human Rights Council and continues to use the Universal Periodic Review process as an opportunity to make recommendations to states on the matter.

Ireland is open to looking at options for progress on a legally binding Treaty, which we believe should treat all economic operators in a non-discriminatory manner and should therefore cover companies engaged in purely domestic operations as well as transnational corporations.

We would wish to see essential human rights principles reflected in any possible instrument, which should reaffirm the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights and stress the primary responsibility of States under existing human rights obligations to protect against human rights violations.

Ultimately, if it is to achieve its objectives, any legally binding instrument should enjoy broad support among UN Member States to ensure its effectiveness as well as international coherence in the framework of business and human rights. We would like to see any new initiative build on, rather than duplicate, existing measures such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. Above all we believe that it should be rooted in the UN Guiding Principles. In this regard, we are of the view that the appropriate place for the discussion of any new initiatives is the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, which was established in 2011 by the Human Rights Council to serve as a global platform to discuss trends and challenges in the implementation of the Guiding Principles.

Election Monitoring Missions

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 67.

Questions (68)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

68. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the recently issued appeals terms of reference would apply to a person (details supplied); if the independent appeals panel will review non-redacted versions of all appeals materials, including all attachments submitted by the person; if a disability professional will be assigned as part of this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11910/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I refer the Deputy to the response to Parliamentary Questions 115, 117, 119 and 126 of 5 March 2019. A detailed Information Note on the operation of the election observation roster, and its mustering, has been made available to the Oireachtas' Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence and accompanies this response. Detailed information on the roster selection process has also been provided in the responses to a series of Parliamentary Questions in January, February and March.

The terms of reference established for the appeals process applied in this, and in all other appeal cases. The appeals panel considered each case within its terms of reference. The appeals panel consisted of two members only; the same two individuals reviewed all cases.

Full consideration was given to the person's application and their request for an appeal. The record of the determination of the Appeals Panel issued to the person on 4 March 2019, as was the case with every other appellant. The appeals process has now closed.

Election-briefing note

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 67.

Diplomatic Representation

Questions (70)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

70. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will be prioritising visits to affected communities in Colombia in view of the new embassy in place in Bogota and his commitment to human rights defenders and the peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12143/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As the Deputy mentioned, Ireland has long been a committed supporter of the peace process in Colombia, with a particular focus on the protection of human rights and human rights defenders. Ireland has committed more than €10 million in funding to Colombia since 2007 to prevent conflict, build peace, protect human rights and support the livelihoods of rural populations, including women.

Ireland was a founding member of the EU Trust Fund for Colombia, and continues to provide funding to the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, in their work to support the implementation of the peace accords.

We have also facilitated lesson sharing programmes between Ireland and Colombia, based on our own experience of peace building. As we know well in Ireland, the signing of a peace agreement only marks the beginning of a process. We understand the slow and painstaking work that goes into building trust between communities to enable reconciliation and to develop a culture of trust. We have had many dark moments and setbacks, and we understand that peace building is the work of generations.

Ireland's new Embassy in Bogotá has just recently opened, with Ambassador Alison Milton presenting her credentials last month. This, combined with the opening last year of the first resident Embassy of Colombia in Dublin, marks a tangible strengthening of relations between our two countries, and will greatly enhance our ability to engage on issues on the ground.

One such important area of engagement is with those local communities and groups that have been most impacted by the armed conflict. Officials at our Embassy in Bogotá have already met with a number of civil society and multilateral organisations, including those working with conflict-affected and rural communities, indigenous and women's groups. My officials engage regularly with the EU delegation and other embassies in Bogotá on these issues.

Having a permanent diplomatic presence on the ground will also further enable us to monitor the status of the peace accords closely and to fulfil our commitment to the Government and people of Colombia.

Ireland remains committed to supporting the full implementation of the peace accords in Colombia to ensure a more peaceful future for all Colombians. We have stressed our continued support for the peace process to the Government of President Iván Duque, including when the Taoiseach met President Duque en marge of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2018.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Government of Colombia and with our EU partners to ensure a coordinated and effective approach that best supports the peace process. I can assure the Deputy of our continued commitment the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Colombians.