Defence Forces Personnel Data

Questions (127)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

127. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of former members of the Defence Forces that were awarded damages in respect of injuries received while in the Defence Forces who have had their pension entitlements restricted thereafter on the basis that they had received an award in court; if this practice is generally in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13402/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

The Army Pensions Acts 1923-1980 provide for the grant of pensions and gratuities to former members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) in respect of permanent disablement due to a wound or injury attributable to military service (whether at home or abroad) or due to disease attributable to or aggravated by overseas service with the United Nations.

Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act, 1923, as amended, provides that any alternative compensation received may be taken into consideration in fixing the level of disability pension or gratuity that might otherwise be awarded for the same injury or medical condition. Compensation of the kind in question would usually result from a civil action for damages against the State, but compensation received from any other source is not excluded. The underlying objective of section 13(2) is to take into consideration compensation paid ‘on the double’ for the same disablement

The award of a disability pension or of a disablement gratuity is considered under Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act 1923 (as amended) in situations where alternative compensation is received in respect of the same injury (or injuries). Consideration under section 13(2) is confined to the specific injury for which the alternative compensation was also received.

In a case where Section 13(2) applies, the applicant or his/her solicitors are advised of the provisions of Section 13(2). They are invited to make submissions as to how much, if any of the alternative compensation should be taken into account in fixing the rate of disability pension. The Minister then makes a bona fide decision based on a consideration of all the facts of the case. Each case is considered on the basis of its individual circumstances, which vary widely. The Minister may decide to take all, some or none of the compensation into account in fixing the rate of disability pension. If the Minister decides to reduce the disability pension under Section 13(2), the reduction applies for the lifetime of the pension.

The Deputy has requested the number of cases in which personnel who were awarded damages in respect of injuries received while in the Defence Forces have had their pension entitlements restricted thereafter on the basis that they had received a civil award in courts.

The relevant legislative provisions have been in place since 1923.

Information as specifically requested by the Deputy is not readily available and it is not possible to compile without incurring significant administrative overheads.

However, information on the numbers over recent years who have had their disability benefits reduced or withheld under Section 13(2), including those where an award was received in court, is available and has been provided to the Deputy in November 2018 on foot of Parliamentary Question Number 70 on 17 October 2018. This information has been updated to reflect the information to a current date and is provided in the table below.

Number of disability benefits which have been reduced or withheld under Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act 1923, in each of the past ten years i.e. 2009 to March 2019.

Year

No. of disability pensions reduced

No. of disablement gratuities reduced/withheld

2009

4

5

2010

3

7

2011

2

5

2012

6

8

2013

3

5

2014

2

2

2015

4

2

2016

9

6

2017

15*

6

2018

10

2

2019

4

0

*following an internal review, a number of historical cases were decided in 2017.

The Army Pensions Acts provide for the award of both pensions and once-off gratuities, therefore information in relation to gratuity awards has also been included, for completeness.

Defence Forces Personnel Data

Questions (128, 130)

James Browne

Question:

128. Deputy James Browne asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a certificate acknowledging the service of a person (details supplied) will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13439/19]

View answer

James Browne

Question:

130. Deputy James Browne asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will provide a certificate confirming the corporal driving experience of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13473/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 130 together.

I have been informed by the military authorities that the named individual was presented with a copy of his personnel file in October 2018 on foot of a request made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2014.

In January 2019. the Defence Forces also provided the named individual with an AF643 which is a Statement of Service in the Defence Forces.

The military authorities have informed me also that there is no evidence that this person held a Defence Forces AF154 Driving Licence. The details supplied refer to licences issued by UNIFIL to personnel serving overseas. This type of licence expires immediately following each mission. The Defence Forces do not keep records pertaining to such licences.

Defence Forces Data

Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 128.

Questions (129)

Joan Burton

Question:

129. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Frontex officers working with the Defence Forces or other bodies under the aegis of his Department; and the number that will be working with those organisations after 29 March 2019. [13449/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

Primary responsibility for the internal security of the State rests with the Minister for Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána. Accordingly, responsibility for the security aspect of border control on a national basis rests with An Garda Síochána, while the Revenue Commissioners also have responsibilities relating to their particular mandate.

Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of Aid to the Civil Power which, in practice, means to provide support to An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. The Defence Forces at all times keep operational plans under constant review and there will continue to be ongoing close liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces regarding security matters, including through regular coordination and liaison meetings.

Ireland does not participate in matters related to the Schengen area and is not a participant to the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation 2016/1624 (also known as the Frontex Regulation).

In relation to Defence Forces Operations, an interface between the Irish Defence Forces and Frontex officers exists through EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia which has been operating in the Mediterranean in parallel with the separate Frontex Joint Operation Themis, (formally Triton).

Irish naval vessels when deployed on Operation Sophia do not participate in Frontex operations. They may be tasked by the Force Commander of EUNAVFOR MED with providing protection to Operation Themis assets when they are deployed to engage in search and rescue operations. However, Irish Naval Vessels cannot be tasked by Frontex Joint Operation Themis in any circumstances and Irish Defence Forces units and sub units remain under the command of an Irish Officer at all times. Ireland lodged caveats to that effect with the Operation Commander prior to joining the operation in October 2017.

Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 128.

Interdepartmental Working Groups

Questions (131)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

131. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the working groups currently established in his Department; the focus of their work; the membership composition of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13563/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

The working groups currently established in my Department are set out in the table below and provide a means of collaborative working to discharge a range of functions.

Working Group

Focus

Composition

Lariam Report Implementation Group

Implementation of the recommendations of the second report of the Working Group on the use of Malaria Chemoprophylaxis in the Defence Forces.

Civil Servants and Military Personnel

Working Group on Direct Entry to the Defence Forces

To examine the direct entry into the Defence Forces of specialists in particular disciplines.

Civil Servants and Military Personnel

C.S.4 Working Group

Numerical establishment of the Defence Forces.

Civil Servants and Military Personnel

Air Traffic Control (ATC) Working Group

Reviewing options to ensure the longer term sustainability of Air Traffic Control Services at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

Civil Servants and Military Personnel

Oracle Softwear Asset Management Team

To address Oracle licencing procurement and Oracle softwear compliance issues for the Defence Organisation.

Civil Servants and Military Personnel

Redress of Wrongs Review Work Group

To finalise issues arising from the Review of the Redress of Wrongs process, to include the identification and remedy of any outstanding issues.

Civil Servants and Military Personnel

Data Protection Working Group

Assistance with implementation of the General Data

Protection Regulation (GDPR) across the Department

A representative from each Branch of the Department

Our Public Service 2020 (OPS2020) - Action 10

To embed Programme and Project Management across the Public Service. (The Department of Defence is leading on this Action as part of the work of OPS2020).

Sectoral experts from the civil and public service which include the following:

- civil servants from the Department of Defence;

- military personnel;

- civil servants from other Government Departments; and

- public servants from other State agencies and bodies.

Defence Forces Personnel Data

Questions (132)

Clare Daly

Question:

132. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of officers, NCOs and privates serving on a monthly basis for the past 12 months. [13578/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) is calculated in terms of whole-time equivalents. This data is collated on a monthly basis and strengths are expressed in end of month figures.

Defence Force Regulation CS4 provides for an establishment of 1,233 Officers, 3,661 Non-Commissioned Officers and 4,606 Privates. The table below shows the strengths (Whole Time Equivalent) breakdown for officers, NCOs and privates serving on a monthly basis for the past 12 months : -

Month/Year

Officers

NCOs

Privates

Cadets

March 2018

1,113

3,107

4,636

137

April 2018

1,109

3,101

4,721

137

May 2018

1,106

3,087

4,681

136

June 2018

1,106

3,064

4,676

134

July 2018

1,117

3,048

4,610

123

August 2018

1,115

3,028

4,591

121

September 2018

1,105

3,000

4,677

207

October 2018

1,102

2,999

4,632

205

November 2018

1,099

3,273

4,447

203

December 2018

1,094

3,263

4,398

202

January 2019

1,087

3,256

4,376

202

February 2019

1,157

3,234

4,333

133

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (133)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

133. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of complaints submitted to his Department in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of appeals made with respect to the outcome of such complaints; the number referred to the Office of the Ombudsman; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13778/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

Complaints can be formal or informal in nature, to allow for discretion at the request of the Complainant. Consequently, complaints of an informal nature that are resolved (preferably at the lowest level) cannot be quantified. If a person is dissatisfied by the decisions of any informal process, they may pursue their complaint through the formal complaints mechanism provided for under Section 114 of the Defence Act 1954.

If the complainant remains dissatisfied at that stage, the complaint may be progressed by the Complainant to the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces.

The military authorities have provided data, correct as of 22 March 2019, in relation to complaints lodged under Section 114 of the Defence Act 1954 and referrals to the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces (ODF). This is set out in the table below;

2017

2018

2019

No of Complaints

72

72

13

Referred to ODF

17

9

1

The numbers set out as being referred to the ODF each year relate specifically to appeals lodged in that year from complaints made in the same year. It should be noted that, taking into account time limits as set out in the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004, complaints lodged in one year may not fall to be referred to the ODF until the next year.

Air Corps

Questions (134)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

134. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the time it takes, that is, days, weeks and months, from the date a member of the Defence Forces submits a request for discharge from the Air Corps to the date discharge is granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13861/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

Requests to discharge from the Air Corps are generally processed without delay. The current discharge process involves the applicant submitting his or her application through the chain of command in the Air Corps. Consideration of the application is conducted both at the Formation level and Defence Forces Head Quarters level. In addition, it may be necessary to engage with officials in the Department.

In the case of applications for discharge by purchase from the Air Corps, each application is viewed on a case by case basis and therefore it is not possible to provide a specific timeline to this process.

Air Corps Expenditure

Questions (135)

Seán Haughey

Question:

135. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the amount spent on replacing or purchasing specialist fire service vehicles for the Air Corps fire services in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14083/19]

View answer

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 acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for me. Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process. The principal aim over the period of the White Paper will be to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements, including response to security risks and other emergencies, both at home and overseas.

Details of the contracts awarded from 2017 to date for the provision of specialist fire service vehicles for the Air Corps are set out in tabular form below:

Tabular Statement: Specialist Fire Service Vehicles for the Air Corps 2017 to 2019

Year

Item

Company

Value Exclusive of VAT

2017

Nil

N/A

Nil

2018

1 Rapid Intervention Foam Tender Vehicle

High Precision Motor Products Limited

€352k

2019

Nil

N/A

Nil

In 2018 following an open tender competition a contract was awarded to High Precision Motor Products Ltd, an Irish company, for the supply of one Rapid Intervention Foam Tender (RIFT) for the Air Corps Fire Service at a value of €352,000 excluding VAT. The vehicle is due to be delivered into service in June 2020. The delivery into service of the RIFT vehicle will augment the existing capability of the Air Corps Fire and Rescue Service at Casement Aerodrome Baldonnel.

In accordance with the National Development Plan (NDP), 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 Government is currently investing in updating the Air Corps fleet of aircraft with the replacement of the existing five Cessna aircraft with three larger and more capable fixed wing utility Pilatus PC 12 aircraft which are being equipped for ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance). It is expected that the three aircraft will be delivered by 2020. Planning is also in progress to replace the CASA Maritime Patrol aircraft and a tender competition is currently underway in this regard.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Questions (136)

Seán Haughey

Question:

136. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he or the Defence Forces will undertake a recruitment campaign abroad to attract military doctors to join the Defence Forces medical corps; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14084/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

There are no plans to undertake a recruitment campaign abroad to attract military doctors to join the Defence Forces medical corps. Recruitment campaigns are driven by vacancies and the operation and success of such campaigns is kept under review to ensure optimum results.

Human Rights

Questions (137, 141, 147, 148, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 158, 159, 161, 162, 171, 172)

John Lahart

Question:

137. Deputy John Lahart asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to support a UN binding treaty on business and human rights in 2019. [13004/19]

View answer

Thomas Pringle

Question:

141. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps that Ireland will take to engage positively in the process of elaborating on a UN treaty to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises in 2019; if Ireland will attend the OEIWGW in Geneva in October 2019 and participate formally in the discussions to elaborate a new UN treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12903/19]

View answer

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

147. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will engage with consultations organised by the chair-rapporteur of the UN open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights regarding a treaty on business and human rights; if Ireland will be represented at the fifth intergovernmental conference of the working group in Geneva in October 2019; his views on the European Union engaging with this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13065/19]

View answer

Catherine Murphy

Question:

148. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to a petition to all members of the Houses of the Oireachtas regarding a UN binding treaty on business and human rights in 2019 (details supplied); the actions he plans to take regarding the points raised in the petition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13069/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

151. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if constructive feedback will be provided on the zero draft of a UN treaty to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises; if he will participate in upcoming consultations organised by the chair-rapporteur of the OEIGWG; if he will attend and engage constructively at the fifth intergovernmental meeting of the OEIGWG in Geneva in October 2019; and if influence will be used to help ensure the EU participates with a negotiating mandate in the fifth session of the OEIGWG. [13145/19]

View answer

Seán Crowe

Question:

152. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to support a UN binding treaty on business and human rights in 2019; if constructive feedback will be provided on the zero draft of the treaty; if he will participate in upcoming consultations organised by the chair-rapporteur of the open-ended intergovernmental working group; if he will attend and engage constructively at the fifth intergovernmental meeting of the working group in Geneva in October 2019; and if he will use influence to help ensure the EU participates with a negotiating mandate in the fifth session of the working group. [13168/19]

View answer

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

153. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to support a UN binding treaty on business and human rights in 2019; if feedback will be provided on the draft of the treaty; if he will participate in upcoming consultations organised by the chair-rapporteur of the UN open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, OEIGWG; if he will attend the fifth intergovernmental meeting of the OEIGWG in Geneva in October 2019; if he will help to ensure the EU participates with a negotiating mandate in the fifth session of the OEIGWG; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13203/19]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

154. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which Ireland will support a UN binding treaty on business and human rights in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13251/19]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

155. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which Ireland will participate in the UN open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights which has already met a number of times; if Ireland will participate in upcoming consultations organised by the chair-rapporteur of the working group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13252/19]

View answer

Seán Haughey

Question:

158. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will engage constructively with the United Nations open–ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights with a view to finalising a treaty on business and human rights; the approach which will be taken to the fifth session of the working group to be held in October 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13364/19]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

159. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to support a UN binding treaty on business and human rights; if he will engage proactively in the 2019 process to build on the initial draft of the treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13380/19]

View answer

Joe Carey

Question:

161. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position with respect to a UN binding treaty on business and human rights in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13414/19]

View answer

Michael McGrath

Question:

162. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to support a UN binding treaty on business and human rights in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13464/19]

View answer

Catherine Martin

Question:

171. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to support a binding UN treaty on business and human rights; if he has provided feedback on the current zero draft of the treaty published on 16 July 2018 by the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights; if he will be participating in upcoming consultations organised by the chair-rapporteur of the working group; and if he will be encouraging the EU to participate with a negotiating mandate in the fifth session of the OEIGWG. [14039/19]

View answer

Catherine Martin

Question:

172. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will be attending and engaging in the fifth intergovernmental meeting of open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights in Geneva in October 2019. [14040/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137, 141, 147, 148, 151 to 155, inclusive, 158, 159, 161, 162, 171 and 172 together.

I am aware of the petition that has been circulated to all members regarding a UN binding treaty on business and human rights.

The background to this petition relates to the work of the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, which was established on foot of a resolution to the Human Rights Council in 2014, led by a number of developing countries, including Ecuador and South Africa.

Four sessions of the Inter-Governmental Working Group have taken place to date. In advance of the fourth and most recent session in October 2018, Ecuador circulated the zero draft of a legally binding instrument. The next session of the Group will meet in October 2019 and Ireland will work with our EU partners to look at how we might actively and constructively engage in the negotiation process, notwithstanding our serious concerns about the way in which the work of the Group has been conducted to date. While we are open to looking at options for progress on a legally binding treaty, we believe that all economic operators should be treated in a non-discriminatory manner. The draft treaty that has currently been circulated focuses on transnational corporations and it is Ireland's view that any new treaty should cover both 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. On this point, I would note that of the 21 countries which to date have adopted National Plans on Business and Human Rights, 16, including Ireland, are EU Member States. 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 on Business and Human Rights. In this regard, we are of the view that the UN Working Party on Business and Human Rights and the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights provide appropriate fora for consideration of any new initiatives..

Brexit Issues

Questions (138)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

138. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the meetings he had with Mr. Michel Barnier on the weekend of 9 and 10 March 2019; the issues that were discussed on the withdrawal treaty and Brexit in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12837/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Together with the Taoiseach, I met with Mr Barnier during his private visit to Dublin on 9-10 March. I met with him again in Brussels on 19 March, while attending the General Affairs Council (Article 50). On that occasion we discussed preparations for the European Council meeting, and the question of an extension to Article 50.

The Government welcomes the decision of the European Council on 21 March, which averted a no deal outcome on 29 March and sets out a pathway aimed at delivering an orderly UK withdrawal.

We also welcome that the European Council also approved the Strasbourg package agreed between Prime Minister May and President Juncker on 11 March.

The European Council made clear that the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, cannot be renegotiated and that any unilateral commitments the UK Government may give to the House of Commons should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement. We welcome these important assertions.

We remain firmly of the view that the best way to ensure an orderly withdrawal and fully protect the Good Friday Agreement is to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement. We hope that the House of Commons will approve this fair and balanced deal.

Responsibility now lies with Westminster and the UK Government. The EU has done all it can.

Given the political uncertainty in London, the European Council also made clear that work would continue on preparedness and contingency at all levels, taking into account all possible outcomes.

Brexit Documents

Questions (139)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

139. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if all papers from the discussions between EU officials and the UK on the most recent attempts to get a resolution to the withdrawal treaty by the British Attorney General, Mr. Geoffrey Cox, will be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12838/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

It is for the UK and the European Commission to decide on the release of any documents exchanged between them in the course of Brexit discussions. They have not done so in respect of the discussions between them earlier this month. The Commission regularly briefed Coreper orally on progress.

At the conclusion of the Commission-UK discussions, on 11 March, Prime Minister May and President Juncker agreed an “Instrument relating to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community” and a “Joint Statement supplementing the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” These documents were approved by the European Council (Article 50) on 21 March.

This followed an intensive series of meetings between the EU and the UK, at various levels, including between the British Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, the UK Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, and the EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier.

There was constant contact between our team and the Commission's team as these documents were being developed, and the Taoiseach spoke by phone with President Juncker before the package was agreed with Prime Minister May.

These documents are complementary to the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration and aim to provide clarification and assurances sought by the UK on the intended temporary nature of the backstop, as well as additions to the political declaration on the future relationship setting clearly our commitment to finding alternative arrangements to the backstop.

The European Council on 21 March approved these documents and again made clear that the Withdrawal Agreement is not to be reopened.

We hope that the House of Commons will now approve the Withdrawal Agreement, to allow for an orderly withdrawal on 22 May 2019. If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by Westminster, the European Council agreed to extend Article 50 until 12 April – a key date in terms of European Parliament elections – and UK must indicate a way forward before this date, which the EU will consider. Responsibility now lies with Westminster and the UK Government. The EU has done all it can.

Brexit Issues

Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 137.

Questions (140)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

140. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he met or spoke with the DUP on the weekend of 9 and 10 March 2019; if Mr. Michael Barnier met or spoke with the DUP when he was in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12844/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Mitigating in so far as possible the negative impacts of the UK's departure from the European Union has been, and continues to be, an absolute priority issue for this Government. The Taoiseach, my Cabinet colleagues and I have taken every opportunity to engage with our EU partners and the UK Government to advance Ireland’s priorities in this regard.

I did not have specific engagement with the DUP on the weekend of 9 and 10 March 2019. However, I engage regularly with the leaders of each of the political parties in Northern Ireland on the European Union’s endeavours to ensure the protection of the Good Friday Agreement throughout the Article 50 negotiations and ratification process. I visited Belfast on 9 and 10 January and held discussions with each of the party leaders, including the DUP leader Arlene Foster, where I reiterated our core policy positrons in relation to the Article 50 negotiations.

Mr Barnier made a private visit to Dublin on 9 and 10 March, and, as such, other than to confirm that the Taoiseach and I met with Mr Barnier on the evening of 9 March, I am not in a position to comment on his private programme.

Question No. 141 answered with Question No. 137.

Human Rights

Questions (142, 143, 149, 150, 163, 164, 168, 169)

Clare Daly

Question:

142. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will join the Norwegian and Cuban Governments, which are guarantor countries to the Colombian peace process, in urging the Colombian Government to approve the statutory law that would give the Special Jurisdiction for Peace the provisions it needs to guarantee truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition. [12935/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

143. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if representations will be made to the Government of Colombia regarding the killing of 20 social activists and community leaders to date in 2019. [12941/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

149. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if representations will be made to the Colombian Government regarding the consolidation of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace into law in the way in which it was agreed in the peace agreement. [13078/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

150. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if representations will be made to the Government of Colombia regarding the killing by right-wing paramilitary groups of a mayoral candidate (details supplied) in the town of Puerto Asis in Putumayo, southern Colombia, on 3 March 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13079/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

163. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has made representations to the Government of Colombia regarding the 20 killings of social activists and community leaders to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13535/19]

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Catherine Connolly

Question:

164. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has made representations to the Government of Colombia regarding the killing by right-wing paramilitary groups of a person (details supplied) in the town of Puerto Asis in Putumayo, southern Colombia, on 3 March 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13536/19]

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Catherine Connolly

Question:

168. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will join the Norwegian and Cuban Governments, guarantor countries to the Colombian peace process, in urging Colombia to approve the statutory law that would give the Special Jurisdiction for Peace the provisions it needs to guarantee truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13650/19]

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Catherine Connolly

Question:

169. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will make representations to the Colombian Government regarding the importance of consolidating the Special Jurisdiction for Peace into law in the way in which it was agreed in the peace agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13651/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142, 143, 149, 150, 163, 164, 168 and 169 together.

I am aware of the climate of violence and intimidation which exists for political and community activists and leaders in Colombia, as well as of the worrying figures and specific case to which the Deputy refers. This continues to be a matter of real concern for the Government.

I wish, first of all, to extend my sincere sympathies and condolences to all of those affected by acts of violence in Colombia so far in 2019. I would like to reiterate that such violence is entirely unacceptable. I would also like to take this opportunity to once again urge the Government of Colombia to ensure that all such violent incidents are thoroughly investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has an ongoing commitment to support peace and promote human rights in Colombia, including through the full implementation of the country’s peace accord. In our exchanges with the government and official representatives of Colombia, we regularly raise human rights concerns, including the situation of human rights defenders and community leaders. As well as exchanges with the Colombian authorities at Government level, officials at the Department and at our new Embassy in Bogotá engage regularly with human rights defenders and civil society leaders active across the country.

Ireland has provided over €14 million in funding to Colombia since 2007, focusing on the areas of human rights, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and supporting livelihoods for rural populations. The Department provides funding directly to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia to support its important work in promoting and protecting human rights, including in some of Colombia’s most isolated and challenging regions, as well as to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, which provides protection measures to community leaders and activists operating in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America.

I firmly believe that Colombia’s peace accord provides the framework in which the endemic violence and impunity which has afflicted Colombian society for decades can successfully be addressed. Historic strides have been made to date in its implementation. However, significant challenges still remain, including in the areas of de-mining, attention to victims, transitional justice, and rural development, some of which of course will have an impact on the situation of political and community activists. Ireland remains a committed partner to the Colombian Government in the peace process, and we will support the Government as it continues its work towards the full implementation of the peace accords, a message we have made clear in our contacts to date with the Government of President Iván Duque.

In addition to the organisations mentioned above, my Department also provides funding to the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Colombia, which works to support stabilisation in areas affected by the conflict, towards reincorporation of former combatants, and to support victims and systems of transitional justice, including by working to strengthen the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.

Ireland was also a founding member of the EU Trust Fund for Colombia, and will contribute €3 million over the five-year lifespan of the Fund. The Fund finances projects targeted at the marginalised rural areas of Colombia which have been most affected by conflict, and all projects incorporate a human rights and gender perspective.

As we know from our own experience, peace is the work of decades. Ireland is committed to supporting the full implementation of the agreement to ensure the eradication of violence in vulnerable communities and a more peaceful and stable future for all Colombians. Having a permanent diplomatic presence on the ground, with the opening of our Embassy in Bogotá earlier this year, will greatly enhance our ability to meet that commitment, and we will continue to work alongside the Colombian Government and our EU, multilateral and civil society partners towards this goal.

Diplomatic Representation

Questions (144)

James Browne

Question:

144. Deputy James Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding reopening the Irish Embassy in Tehran to facilitate future co-operation and trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12953/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Embassy of Ireland in Ankara is accredited on a non-residential basis to Iran. The Ambassador of Ireland in Ankara travels regularly to Iran in support of our broad policy objectives, including the development of political relations, trade relations and supporting the needs of Irish businesses operating or hoping to operate there. Ireland is also represented in Iran by an Honorary Consul. Honorary Consuls are an important element of the State’s global engagement and provide consular services and assistance, as well as a range of other supports to citizens.

With the launch last year of ‘Global Ireland: Ireland’s Global Footprint to 2025’, the Government is committed to doubling the scope and impact of Ireland’s global footprint in the period ahead, while also continuously reviewing the scale of Ireland’s overseas network. In considering the expansion of our diplomatic representation overseas, a range of factors is taken into account including our national political, economic and trade priorities, as well as the availability of resources. The Government is conscious of the factors that might warrant the opening of a resident diplomatic mission in Iran, as in a number of other countries and will keep the matter under active review.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (145)

Niall Collins

Question:

145. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has been contacted by his EU colleagues with regard to the use of 5G technology by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12986/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I have regular contact with my EU counterparts covering a broad range of issues. I have not been contacted directly by my EU colleagues on the use of 5G technology by this company. However, I attended the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 18 March, where this topic was raised briefly during the course of a wide-ranging discussion on a variety of issues of mutual interest, including EU-China relations, Moldova and Yemen.

Human Rights

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 137.

Questions (146)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

146. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the position of the Brazilian President, Mr. Bolsonaro, to expand agriculture into lands occupied by indigenous communities. [13014/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware of the concerns in Brazil, and across Latin America more widely, regarding environmental issues, land rights and the rights of indigenous communities. Sensitivities relating to development of indigenous lands without sufficient consultation or consent with the local population have been brought to my attention and I remain concerned at reports of unacceptable levels of violence and killings of land rights and indigenous rights activists, often those vocally opposing such projects.

A report released in August 2018 by UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, highlights the difficult situation that exists in several countries, including Brazil, for indigenous communities and activists. The report concludes that states carry the primary responsibility for ensuring that indigenous peoples are able to safely exercise their rights and that accountability is established for violations against indigenous communities and defenders. The reports also highlights the necessity to engage in genuine, free and informed consultation with communities prior to development.

Ireland has called on a number of occasions for states, including Brazil, to ensure full accountability for any violence, harassment or intimidation of civil society, indigenous or environmental activists exercising their rights to freedom of expression, and for the respect of indigenous communities' rights. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that call.

Ireland used the occasion of the 27th Session of the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 5 May 2017 to express our concern at the reported regression in the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights in Brazil. Ireland recommended that Brazil take further steps to protect human rights defenders, including those working in relation to the rights of indigenous peoples, by ensuring impartial, thorough and effective investigations into all cases of attacks, harassment and intimidation and the prosecution of all alleged perpetrators of such offences.

In addition to these representations at multilateral level, officials of my Department at home and at our Embassy in Brasília engage regularly with human rights activists and civil society leaders in Latin America, including those working on the rights of indigenous communities.

I take note of President Bolsonaro's decision to keep Brazil in the Paris Agreement, which is an encouraging development. Ireland is a committed supporter of global efforts to combat climate change, one of the most serious threats facing the world today, and Brazil has been an important partner on this issue. Brazil played a key role in the formation of the Paris Agreement of 2015, and this is an indication that President Bolsonaro will honour these commitments.

Ireland will continue to engage with Brazil, and other partners in the Latin America and Caribbean region, on the issues of climate change, sustainable development, and indigenous rights through our bilateral, EU level and EU-CELAC relationships. We will monitor developments closely, and will continue to engage with EU and local partners, raising these issues at EU and UN level as appropriate.

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 137.