69. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of athletes being sent to China for the CISM World Games 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22969/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 69-88
69. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of athletes being sent to China for the CISM World Games 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22969/19]View answer
70. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if triathletes in the Defence Forces will be travelling to China to represent Ireland in the CISM World Games 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22970/19]View answer
71. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the amount being spent to accommodate athletes travelling to the CISM World Games in China in October 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22971/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 to 71, inclusive, together.
The decision on whether members of the Irish Defence Forces will participate in the 2019 CISM World Games in China is currently under consideration and as such there are no details of costs and numbers travelling, if any, available at present. When the details become available I will forward them to the Deputy.
72. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the Israel and Palestine issue was discussed at the recent EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting. [22673/19]View answer
The conflict between Israel and Palestine was not on the agenda of the most recent meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 13 May.
The rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza which occurred in early May, were matters of deep concern to me and to the EU generally. I absolutely deplore the deaths of civilians on both sides as a result of these events. I issued a public statement on 5 May calling for de-escalation of the situation, and thankfully a ceasefire came into effect on 6 May. The situation therefore did not arise at the Council.
73. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the name of the members appointed to the 2018 election observation roster; if all those placed on the roster had sought to be reappointed; if current or past departmental staff members have been appointed to the 2018 roster; the detail of each observer placed by mission since the commencement of the new roster; the costs incurred per placement; the expenses and grants paid for each observer placed; the number of observers with disabilities placed on missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22958/19]View answer
I refer the Deputy to the responses to the following Parliamentary Questions tabled during the months of February and March which provide further information on the election observation roster, including Questions No. 152 of 12 February 2019, No. 108 of 26 February 2019 and No. 74 of 6 March 2019.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains and administers a roster of suitably skilled individuals who are available to participate in election observation missions overseas, organised in the main by the EU and the OSCE. A new roster was put in place in January 2019 following a Call for Volunteers which issued in July 2018.
To date in 2019 members of that roster have participated in election observation missions in El Salvador, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Malawi, Moldova, Senegal and Ukraine. Roster members are also being nominated to participate in the forthcoming OSCE Election Observation Missions in Albania and Kazakhstan.
39 observers have participated in these missions. This comprises 2 Long Term Observers and 37 Short Term Observers. The total cost to the Department to date is €110,704.09. This cost represents the flight costs for OSCE missions, OSCE mission costs shared per observer contributing States which cover in-country costs such as drivers, fuel, interpreters, meals and accommodation, and the pre-departure expenses of €600 which are paid to every observer who participates in a mission once in a 12 month period. This payment covers the cost of pre-departure medical visits, vaccinations, transport costs to the airport of departure, where relevant pre-departure hotel accommodation costs and other miscellaneous expenses.
While serving members of staff of the Department are not excluded from applying to be members of the roster, they are not considered to be eligible for nomination to an overseas election observer mission while in the employ of the Department. One non-established member of staff was mustered to the current roster, but will not be considered eligible for nomination to a mission until a short-term contract of employment with the Department expires.
Separately, the Director of a regional or thematic unit in the Department can nominate a desk officer from that unit to participate in a mission where it is directly relevant to their area of work. This would be an additional nomination to the roster nominations and these officials do not receive pre-departure expenses, which are only paid to roster members. For example, the First Secretary responsible for bilateral relations with Ukraine participated in the recent OSCE-ODIHR Election Observation in Ukraine. No other member of the Department's staff has participated in a mission to date in 2019.
It remains my intention that the names of the members of the new roster, and the names of those who participated in missions to date in 2019, will be released once security vetting is complete. Under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Department cannot disclose the personal data of any member of the election observation roster without their specific, informed, unambigious and freely-given consent. There is of course a public interest in disclosing the names of roster members. For this reason, as roster members are being trained, the Department is seeking the consent of individual roster members to allow publication of the names of those on the current roster once security vetting is complete. This process is ongoing.
Where a roster member with a disability requests that a reasonable accommodation be made to enable their participation in a mission, the Department’s Elections Desk would liaise with the EU or OSCE-ODIHR, as appropriate, to see whether the arrangement could be facilitated, while also taking into account logistical, accommodation and security challenges on the ground. No reasonable accommodation has been requested by any of those nominated thus far from the current roster.
74. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason funding is only provided to UN youth volunteers for 12 months; his plans to extend the period of funding for volunteers in the future to a two-year period similar to other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23009/19]View answer
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade currently provides funding to UN Volunteers on an annual basis in line with our funding approach to other UN agencies. In 2017 and 2018 our funding was €500,000.
Our current policy is to assign volunteers through UNV for a twelve month period. This ensures that as many applicants to what is a competitive selection process have the opportunity to volunteer through the UNV programme. I am aware that a number of Irish UNVs have been successful in obtaining follow-on contracts to facilitate their continued work within the UN system as a result of their work during their UNV tenure and thereby allowing other Irish UNVs to be appointed.
I have asked my officials to consider the potential benefits and disadvantages of a two year cycle for volunteers as part of their planning process for budget 2020.
75. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 116 of 21 May 2019, the status of a passport application by a person (details supplied); the approximate date for the issuing of the passport; if the application will be expedited to allow the person to travel for Eid on 5 June 2019 in view of the fact that proof of travel has been supplied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23053/19]View answer
I am advised by the Passport Service that the application referred to was registered with the Passport Service on May 13th.
First-time applications require additional security measures including robust identity verification and entitlement checking and, as a result, take longer to process. The Passport Service aims to process first-time passport applications submitted via Passport Express within 20 working days.
The individual’s travel date of 5 June has been noted and if all is in order with the application it will be procesed before that travel date.
76. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if his officials have received the recent OECD Economic Outlook Report published on 21 May 2019. [22681/19]View answer
I regularly monitor the latest economic developments. My Department continually analyses short and medium-term macroeconomic trends in the European and international economy. This includes informing me of the latest forecasts of the global economy, and of our key trading partners from the international institutions.
The OECD Economic Outlook Report, published on 21 May 2019, shows a marked deterioration in the external environment. Global GDP growth slowed sharply in late 2018 and early 2019, and is stabilising at a lower level. The OECD is forecasting global growth to be 3.2 per cent this year before increasing slightly to 3.4 per cent in 2020.
Within the EU, the principal concerns at the present juncture relate to the timing and nature of Brexit, and the continued moderation of growth, which the OECD expects to remain subdued at 1.2 per cent in 2019 and 1.4 per cent in 2020.
The OECD project Ireland's economy to continue to grow strongly at 3.9 per cent this year, and 3.3 per cent in 2020. On this basis, although the pace of growth is easing, Ireland’s growth is set to remain above the Euro Area average. These forecasts are in line with my Department’s latest macroeconomic outlook, published in the Stability Programme Update 2019 last month.
Escalating trade conflicts are negatively affecting the growth outlook in all countries. The key issue for Europe and the world economy is to safeguard the open, rules-based, global trading system which has been associated with raising living standards throughout the world.
Ireland, as a highly open, export focused, economy is particularly sensitive to a slowdown in world trade and overall economic growth. The slowing world growth momentum and the implications for Ireland’s economy, underline the importance of improving the resilience of the economy by building fiscal buffers and focussing on productivity and competitiveness.
The OECD Economic Outlook notes that the Government should remain committed to improving the public finances, but that it should stand ready to mitigate disruptive consequences if significant risks materialise, such as a disorderly conclusion of the Brexit negotiations. Government policy is consistent with this objective. The forthcoming Summer Economic Statement will set out the broad parameters for macroeconomic growth, the fiscal outlook and constraints over the medium term in advance of this Autumn’s Budget.
77. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if the OECD report on corporation tax was discussed at recent EU Ecofin meetings or when he met his EU counterparts. [22677/19]View answer
I recently had the opportunity to discuss the OECD work with some of my EU counterparts on the margins of Eurogroup, and there was a more in depth discussion at Ecofin, where I was represented by Minister D’Arcy.
It was agreed at the ECOFIN that the various OECD tax proposals should continue to be discussed at EU level to try and identify common areas of interest or concern. The regular taxation working parties have been mandated to explore possible areas of EU convergence, and will update Ecofin on a regular basis.
Discussions with our fellow EU Member States are important in terms of refining our understanding and maximising our contribution to the debate at OECD. We also need to explore how the various proposals at OECD may impact EU law.
Last week I attended the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris which presented a further occasion to discuss the OECD proposals with fellow Ministers.
78. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the flood defences for Athea, County Limerick; and the location in Athea they will be carried out. [22988/19]View answer
Athea, Co. Limerick, was one of 300 areas that were believed to be at significant flood risk, and hence assessed as part of the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme, the largest ever flood risk study carried out in the State. The CFRAM Programme culminated with the launch of 29 Flood Risk Management Plans on 3 May 2018, and proposed 118 new outline flood relief projects on top of the 42 major projects already completed and the 33 major schemes within the existing capital works programme of the Office of Public Works (OPW).
All of these projects are to be funded under the Government's 10 year flood risk investment programme of almost €1 billion under the National Development Plan 2018 – 2027.
As it is not possible to progress all 118 proposed new schemes at once, funding of €257 million was also announced for an initial phase of 50 flood relief projects throughout the country, to be progressed to detailed design and construction; including the five largest schemes identified in the Plans and 31 small, or minor projects (with an estimated preliminary project budget of under €1 million) which will be progressed directly by local authorities. The proposed flood relief scheme in Athea is included in the 31 small projects under €1 million, and is being progressed directly by Limerick City and County Council with full funding from the OPW.
Potentially viable flood relief works for Athea (to be implemented subject to project-level assessment) are likely to include construction of 160m of flood defence walls and construction of 150m of flood defence embankments. The exact location in Athea at which the defences will be built will be determined through detailed design and project level assessment. Accordingly Limerick City and County Council is currently running a tendering process for Engineering and Environmental Consultants for this project.
79. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the expenditure incurred to date by various Departments in acquiring and developing physical infrastructure for all possible Brexit scenarios, including, for example, buying or leasing of land at ports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22992/19]View answer
The Office of Public Works has spent €7,806,963 to date on acquiring and developing physical infrastructure for use at Dublin Port, Rosslare Europort and Dublin Airport as a consequence of Brexit.
80. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school building projects at an advanced stage of architectural planning stage 2(B) - detailed design; the number of school building projects that have been at stage 2B for more than one, two, three and over five years, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22912/19]View answer
Stage 2(b) Detailed Design is arguably the most complex and detailed of all the stages in Architectural Planning.
In the majority of school building projects, this stage includes the planning application, the application for Fire Cert and Disability Access Cert and the pre-qualification of contractors. It also includes the preparation of complex and detailed tender documents.
Over the past year, some school building projects have undergone a longer than normal Stage 2b process. This can be due to a complicated or detailed planning application, appeals to An Bord Pleanala, complications around decant arrangements or issues relating to the site. Furthermore, in completing Stage 2(b), Design Teams are now required to upgrade design details to ensure that new school buildings are Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) in compliance with the 2017 amendment to Part L of the current Building Regulations. In many cases this has involved a second planning application to allow for the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof following receipt of the initial planning permission.
In addition, since November 2018, a number of competitions to pre-qualify suitable and competent building contractors have been challenged in the High Court leading to the need to completely redraft the procedures and processes involved in pre-qualification. This has impacted over the past few months on projects which were not themselves subject to a direct challenge.
In terms of current projects at Stage 2b, 7 such projects have been progressing through the stage for 1 year, 19 projects have been progressing for 2 years, 19 further projects have been progressing for 3 years and 9 projects have been progressing through the stage for 5 years. This is in the context of currently over 70 major school building projects in advanced architectural planning and a continuous throughput of projects moving into Stage 2b and onwards towards Tender Stage and Construction.
In the small number of cases where projects have been in Stage 2b for 5 years, these projects have generaly experienced planning difficulties and/or unavoidable changes to the brief or scope of the project in addition to the other general impediments to progress mentioned previously.
81. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options available in terms of transport provision for children including children with special educational needs not attending their nearest primary and post-primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22922/19]View answer
School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.
There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.
The purpose of the Primary and Post Primary School Transport Schemes is, having regard to available resources, to support the transport to and from school of children who reside remote from their nearest school. In general children are eligible for school transport if they meet the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school having regard to ethos and language.
Children who are eligible for school transport under the terms of the Primary and Post Primary School Transport Schemes and who complete the application process on time will be accommodated on school transport services where such services are in operation for the 2019/20 school year.
Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only and will be facilitated where there are existing services with spare seats available after eligible children have been accommodated. In this regard families should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of transport on a concessionary basis for the next school year.
In general, children with special educational needs are eligible for school transport if they are attending the nearest school that is resourced to meet their educational needs. Eligibility is determined following consultation with the National Council for Special Education through its network of Special Education Needs Organisers.
Children who are eligible for school transport under the terms of the Special Educational Needs Scheme may be accommodated on existing services, be offered a Special Transport Grant towards the cost of making private transport arrangements or have a new service established to provide them with transport from their home to school. Children who are not eligible for school transport under the terms of this scheme may also apply for transport on a concessionary basis where suitable services are available.
The terms of the School Transport Schemes are applied equitably on a national basis.
82. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school places for students with autism in both primary and secondary schools in Dublin by location; and the steps he is taking to address the shortage of school places for students with autism in Dublin. [22952/19]View answer
The Government is spending nearly one euro in every five of the education budget on special education – about €1.9 billion in 2019. We have significantly increased the availability of special placements for children with special educational needs as well as bringing more and more children into mainstream education.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
This includes the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.
In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned.
The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to re-configure existing spaces within the school building to accommodate the class and/or to construct additional accommodation.
Similarly, where special schools wish to expand provision, the school can apply to my Department for capital funding to accommodate additional placements.
In the case of all new schools, it is general practice to include a Special Education Needs Base (SEN Base) in the accommodation brief for new school buildings, unless local circumstances indicate that it will not be required. Typically, a two classroom SEN Base is provided in new primary schools and a two or four classroom SEN Base is provided in new post primary schools.
There are 37 special schools and 237 special classes attached to mainstream schools in Co. Dublin.
The number of ASD special classes in Co. Dublin have increased from 66 in 2011/2012 to 197 in 2018/2019. Of these, 17 are ASD Early Intervention Classes, 139 are ASD Primary Classes and 41 are ASD Post Primary Classes. Each ASD Special class provides 6 placements.
Details of all special classes for children with special educational needs are available on www.ncse.ie.
The NCSE has informed my Department that they intend to establish over 170 new special classes nationally for 2019/20 school year of which approximately 165 will be new ASD special classes.
Notwithstanding the extent of this investment issues remain. There are some parts of the country where increases in population and other issues have led to shortages in capacity in the school system.
The NCSE formally advised me that there is insufficient special school and special class capacity in Dublin 15.
This letter is the formal activation of section 37A of the Education Act 1998 (as inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018). This contains a procedure through which the capacity of schools in an area can be tested and through which ultimately a Ministerial direction can be made requiring a school to make additional special education provision available.
The NCSE and my Department are actively engaging with education service providers in order to encourage them to address the shortage of places.
I am encouraged that to date these efforts have resulted in progress in Dublin 15.
Engagement with schools, patrons bodies, parents and others is continuing in Dublin 15 to bring the required additional special class and special school placements on stream.
The NCSE will keep in regular contact with the Parents of the children concerned to advise them of progress and identify placements as they become available.
The new power to compel schools to make additional special education provision available has yet to be invoked.
While the NCSE and the Department continue to encourage stakeholders to open special classes, the process under the admissions legislation will continue and may lead to interaction with education providers entering a more formal process.
In short, ensuring that every child has a suitable placement available to them from September is a key priority for this Government.
83. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason secondary school SNAs work during the month of June in view of the fact that only State exams are taking place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22978/19]View answer
84. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding differing levels of pay between SNAs at primary and secondary level, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22979/19]View answer
85. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for salary and working hours disparity between primary and secondary school SNAs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22980/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 to 85, inclusive, together.
All Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are paid on the SNA salary scale which is set by the Minister for Education and Skills in conjunction with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. SNAs who are employed in a regular part-time capacity are paid a pro-rata amount dependent upon their level of hours of employment. Part-time SNAs are paid on the agreed divisor rate for pay purposes for part-time SNAs which is 32 hours.
The current salary scales for Special Needs Assistants are set out Department of Education and Skills circular 0071/2018 ‘REVISION OF SALARIES FOR SPECIAL NEEDS ASSISTANTS (SNAs) WITH EFFECT FROM 1 JANUARY 2019’.
The position on working hours for SNAs is that there are no nationally set working hours for full-time SNAs. In this regard, the contractual position in respect of the working hours of SNAs is as outlined in their contracts of employment which were agreed with the school management authorities and the relevant Trade Unions representing SNAs (FÓRSA and SIPTU) prior to their introduction in 2005. The working week for SNAs is defined in paragraph 2.5 of their contract as follows: "You will be required to work normal classroom hours including class break periods and in addition to attend before and after school in order to help with the preparation and tidying up of classrooms, reception and dispersal of children etc. The hours of work will normally be from [xxxx] to [xxxx] daily during term time." This standard contract has been designed to be flexible to cater for the different spectrum of working hours across all the various schools including primary, post-primary and special schools. No set hours were agreed but instead, full-time SNAs are expected to work for the normal school hours in the school that they are working in, and in addition to be available for a period of time before and after school in order to help with reception and dispersal of children and preparation and tidying up of classrooms etc. These times are set locally by the school management and will vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school. In addition, all SNAs were required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total. Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days. These 12 days now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year.
Furthermore, the contract for Special Needs Assistants in the post primary sector (link below) specifically requires that SNAs are required to work the month of June on examinations and work appropriate to the grade including training. This was agreed with the Unions representing SNAs (FÓRSA and SIPTU) when the contract was devised in 2005. This condition of service places a clear onus and obligation on the SNA to attend at their place of work and be available for work during the month of June. It is a matter for school management as their employer to determine the precise work that is to be completed by SNAs during the month of June. The utilisation of this period is not specifically for examinations or training purposes only, although these are two of the purposes for which the period of work can be utilised. Link to the SNA Contract of Employment for the Post Primary sector: Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 12/05 (Post-Primary) http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/sna12_05.pdf This contract of employment is augmented by all of the relevant Departmental Circulars governing Special Needs Assistants which detail the standardised terms and conditions of employment for SNAs. These Circulars are amended and new Circulars are issued by the Minister for Education and Skills from time to time.
86. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to expand and add additional resources if needed to carry out energy efficient retrofits of schools nationally in view of the fact that a climate emergency has been declared; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23037/19]View answer
In the National Development Plan (2018-2027) €2.5bn is identified for the refurbishment and construction of schools. Part of this is intended for a deep energy retrofit of schools built prior to 2008.
My Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland are currently involved in an energy efficiency retrofit pilot scheme for schools. Now in its third year, the aim of the pilot is to create a scalable model for energy efficiency retrofitting of schools. This is taking place in advance of the major programme of retrofits scheduled to commence in 2022, as outlined in Project Ireland 2040. Subject to resources, it is intended to expand the intake of schools in the pilot programme in the lead up to 2022.
This pilot commenced in 2017 when ten schools received energy retrofits. In 2018 six schools received retrofits and seventeen schools are set to benefit from this scheme in 2019.
87. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the number of schools that are set to benefit from deep energy retrofits in 2019 will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23038/19]View answer
I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a joint press release issued from from myself and Minister Bruton on the 29th March announcing the details of the 2019 deep energey retrofit programme. This included a list of the seventeen schools that have been identified for these works in 2019. This inititative is to be jointly funded with a €7 million budget from the Department of Education and Skills and Department of Communication, Climate Action and Environment.
This press release is available on my Departments Website at www.education.ie.
88. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date in the determination of an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22905/19]View answer
I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy continues to be processed and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. If further documentation is required it will be requested from the applicant in due course.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.
It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.
Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility, which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.