Passport Services

Questions (128)

Niall Collins

Question:

128. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the target and actual turnaround time across all passports services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24070/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

All renewal applications are currently being processed within target turnaround times. In fact a large proportion of applications submitted through the Online Passport Renewal Service are currently being processed in timeframes shorter than the target turnaround time of 10 working days. 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

Actual 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

 21 working days

Northern Ireland Passport Express renewal applications

 15 working days

 15 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

 15 working days

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

 30 working days

 73 working days

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (129)

Niall Collins

Question:

129. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Sudan; the EU position on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24071/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The recent political events and violence against protestors in Sudan follows over six months of demonstrations, triggered initially by spiralling costs of living.

On 11 April, it was announced that President Omar al-Bashir had been removed from power and that a Transitional Military Council had assumed control in Sudan.  The Transitional Military Council announced its intention to govern for a two-year period after which there would be Presidential elections: in the meantime, Sudan's Constitution was suspended, Parliament dissolved, and a three-month state of emergency was declared.

Demonstrators, while welcoming the removal of President al-Bashir, continued to demand a return to Constitutional and civilian-led Government.  On 15 May, following extensive negotiations, an agreement in principle was announced for a three-year transition period. However, final agreement regarding a civilian majority on a proposed 11-member Supreme Council was opposed by the Transitional Military Council, and negotiations stalled.   

Shortly after dawn on 3 June, heavily armed security forces surrounded demonstrators and shot indiscriminately with live bullets and teargas. The official death toll is thought to considerably underestimate actual numbers killed.  The Transitional Military Council later stated that the raid targeted criminals amongst the demonstrators, a claim refuted by the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a broad coalition of opposition parties and the major force behind the protests.

The Transitional Military Council announced that it was cancelling all agreements with the Declaration of Freedom and Change, saying it would move ahead with elections to be held within nine months. Demonstrators demand a longer period to guarantee fair elections.

On 3 June, EU High Representative Mogherini issued a statement declaring that there can be no justification for the use of force to disperse peaceful protests, and that the Transitional Military Council is accountable for security and rule of law in the country, with a responsibility to act with restraint. The  Tánaiste has endorsed this statement and has also strongly condemned the use of violence and excessive force against protestors.  

On 6 June, the African Union decided with immediate effect to suspend Sudan from participation in all African Union activities until the effective establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority.  This followed sustained, but ultimately unsuccessful, engagement with Sudan in the weeks since the Transitional Military Council seized control, to encourage them to restore constitutional order. 

My officials continue to actively monitor developments in Sudan, through the Embassy of Ireland in Nairobi, which has responsibility for Sudan, and through the European Union delegation in Khartoum.  Ireland continues to respond to on-going humanitarian needs in Sudan through the provision of humanitarian funding, with almost €29 million provided through our UN, NGO and Red Cross partners since 2012.

Visa Agreements

Questions (130)

Niall Collins

Question:

130. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the efforts being made to secure surplus E3 visas for Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24072/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Taoiseach and I have prioritised the issue of Irish immigration to the US since taking office. We will continue our efforts in this regard until we secure progress – both in terms of future legal immigration opportunities for Irish citizens, and also in securing a pathway for those Irish who are undocumented in order to regularise their status.  Special Envoy to the US Congress on the Undocumented, John Deasy T.D., has also worked closely on these issues with my Department.   

I visited the US in early February, for a series of engagements with the US Administration and Congressional leaders.  I raised immigration issues in these meetings, as I have done in all my interactions with the US Administration and US political leaders since taking office.  The Taoiseach also discussed the issue in his engagements over the St Patrick's Day period.  In April, I was delighted to host events to mark the visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker and accompanying Congressional delegation were fully briefed on Irish interests, including immigration issues. 

I was pleased to note that an E3 Bill, which if passed, would offer new opportunities for Irish citizens to live and work in the US, was subsequently reintroduced into the US Congress.  Much work still needs to be done for this Bill to become a reality, and we are under no illusions as to the challenging path ahead.  

Special Envoy Deasy was in Washington D.C. in mid-May in connection with the Bill, and was supported in his work by the Americas Unit of my Department, and Ireland’s Embassy in Washington, DC.  

Given its importance, the Taoiseach also raised the Bill with President Trump when he visited last week, and the President commented positively, indicating his support.  Our Embassy in Washington, D.C. continues its extensive outreach in support of the Bill, working with a range of members of the US House of Representatives and the Senate, from both sides of the aisle.  

Diplomatic Representation

Questions (131)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

131. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to refurbish the embassy in Australia; when such works will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24094/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Embassy of Ireland to the Commonwealth of Australia is located in Canberra. The property is state-owned and located on lands leased from the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. There are currently no plans to refurbish the Embassy.

Official Engagements

Questions (132)

Niall Collins

Question:

132. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the briefing supplied to the special envoy to the United States of America before he attended the dinner and-or a meeting with President Trump; the issues it included; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24102/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

While no formal briefing was provided to Deputy Deasy by my Department in advance of his engagements last week, I and my officials are in ongoing, frequent contact with the Deputy in the relation to his work as Special Envoy to the US Congress on the Undocumented.  

Deputy Deasy travelled to Washington, D.C. in mid-May in the context of developments on the Irish E3 Visa Bill which is currently before the US Congress. He was supported in his visit by the Americas Unit of my Department, as well as our Embassy in Washington, D.C. - as he has been on all previous visits to the US.  

I and my Department will continue to work closely with Deputy Deasy on US immigration matters in the coming months.

Official Engagements

Questions (133, 134, 135)

Niall Collins

Question:

133. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he was invited to attend the dinner in Doonbeg, County Clare, with President Trump; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24103/19]

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Niall Collins

Question:

134. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he met with President Trump in Shannon Airport; if he was invited to attend the arrival of President Trump in Shannon Airport or other events during the stay of the president; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24104/19]

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Niall Collins

Question:

135. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he or his officials received a briefing from the Ambassador to the United States of America following his attendance at the dinner with President Trump at Doonbeg, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24105/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 to 135, inclusive, together.

The visit of President Trump to Ireland involved a limited official programme. President Tump and First Lady Melania Trump were greeted at Shannon Airport by the Taoiseach, accompanied by Minister Josepha Madigan and Minister of State Pat Breen. The Taoiseach then held a useful bilateral meeting with the US President , during which they discussed issues of mutual concern, including Brexit; the Irish E3 visa Bill currently before the US Congress; economic; and international issues.  

The US President's official programme coincided with my visit to Belfast in support of the ongoing all-party talks, aimed at restoring devolved Government and power sharing.  The Government's hopes for these talks were raised in the context of the US Presidential visit, and I welcome continued strong US support for peace, prosperity and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.  

Finally, to confirm, that like all members of Government, I receive ongoing updates and briefing from senior officials in my Department on all policy areas, which naturally includes significant engagements with key partners. 

Passport Applications

Questions (136)

James Browne

Question:

136. Deputy James Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding a passport application by a person (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an affidavit in respect of the application has already been submitted; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the affidavit was signed by a notary public; if there are commissioners for oaths in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24195/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am advised by the Passport Service that the application referred to has been reviewed and that the application has now been approved.

The applicant's guardian has been contacted and advised regarding the status of the application and of dispatch arrangements for the passport.

With regard to your queries in relation to affidavits, the Passport Service requires the submission of affidavits in certain circumstances, including in relation to guardianship matters. The Passport Service requires that such affidavits are witnessed by a person authorised by law to administer oaths in the country in which the applicant resides. Where applicants are resident in the United States of America, the Passport Service can accept affidavits witnessed by notary publics in limited circumstances.

EU Bodies

Questions (137)

Micheál Martin

Question:

137. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has spoken to his officials in Dublin or Brussels regarding the future vacancies at head of the Commission or at Council level. [23899/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

After the European Parliament elections, the Heads of State and Government met on 28 May to discuss the outcome of the elections and procedures for the nominations to the high level appointments to the European institutions that fall to be made in the period ahead.

At that meeting, EU leaders mandated President Tusk to start consultations with EU Members States and the Parliament ahead of the June European Council meeting which takes place on 20 and 21 June and which will consider further the possible nominations.

We have been clear in our position that these high-level appointments should reflect geographical balance as well as demography. It is important that both large and smaller countries are represented in the highest positions in the EU.  In the spirit of the Treaties, gender as well as political balance, should also be taken into account.

Carbon Tax Yield

Questions (138)

James Lawless

Question:

138. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Finance if the proceeds of the carbon tax are used for a particular purpose or fund or if they contribute to the general taxation fund. [23527/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

Revenue raised from carbon tax is remitted to the Exchequer and therefore used to fund public services, including measures to address energy poverty such as the National Fuel Allowance Scheme and the Better Energy Warmer Homes Schemes.  

To date carbon tax revenues have not been hypothecated for any exclusive purpose. Hypothecation in general is not a feature of the Irish tax system as it reduces the flexibility of the Government to prioritise and allocate funds as necessary at a particular time, constraining expenditure decisions and potentially distorting the allocation of resources, which can result in reduced value for money and sub-optimal outcomes.

However, in line with the recommendation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, my Department has launched a public consultation on the options for the use of revenues raised from increases in the Carbon Tax, including hypothecation options. The consultation is open for submissions until 28th June and is accessible at the following link: https://assets.gov.ie/9384/b078dbb6c7614c748b897ba01b481532.pdf

The feedback received from this consultation will help to inform future Carbon Tax policy options.

Tax Credits

Questions (139, 140)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

139. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if there will be an increase in tax credits for civil servants; if the case of a person (details supplied) will be addressed in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23600/19]

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Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

140. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if there will be an increase in tax credits for civil servants; if the case of a person (details supplied) will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23604/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

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

In the last number of Budgets, the Government has been introducing targeted changes to the income tax system within available resources to make steady and sustainable progress in reducing the income tax burden, focusing on low and middle income earners.  This has been done by making targeted changes to the Universal Social Charge and also by increasing the entry point to the higher rate of income tax. All those in receipt of taxable income, including former civil servants, have benefited from these changes.

Regarding tax credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit for self-employed persons and the Home Carer Tax Credit have also been increased in the last number of Budgets. Depending on their circumstances, former civil servants may have benefited from these increases.

It is the Government’s position that earners start to pay the marginal rate of income tax at too low a level and we are committed to reducing excessive tax rates for low and middle income earners while also keeping the tax base broad. It is expected that continued progress in this area will also be made in the context of limited resources available in Budget 2020, balanced against all of the competing demands.

Help-To-Buy Scheme Data

Questions (141)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

141. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Finance the number of applicants who availed of the help to buy scheme in counties Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24113/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that geographical data in relation the Help to Buy (HTB) is categorised by the county of location of the relevant property rather than the county of residence of the claimant prior to the purchase. To the start of May 2019, the following claims were made in relation properties located in the counties the Deputy refers to:

County 

Start May 19

Donegal

128

Leitrim

33

Roscommon

84

Sligo

92

I am further advised by Revenue that the number of HTB claims, broken down by county, can be found on page 6 of the HTB report on Revenue’s website at link: https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/htb/htb-monthly.aspx .

VAT Exemptions

Questions (142)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

142. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance the measures taken by the Revenue Commissioners to publicise the change in VAT arrangements introduced in the Finance Act 2012 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23199/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The background to this issue is that up to 31 December 2011, admissions to open farms and built and natural heritage facilities were treated as a short-term letting of an immovable good and were therefore exempt from VAT. Following a number of CJEU cases, Revenue issued a notice in mid-2011 that such admissions could no longer be treated as exempt and would be liable to VAT at the standard rate. On the following Budget night, my predecessor, Minister Noonan announced that he was going to make a change in the VAT treatment of admission fees and in Finance Act 2012, the second reduced rate (9%) was extended to open farms and built and natural heritage facilities.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that further to the notice issued in 2011 and Finance Act 2012, this change in the VAT treatment was publicised in the following ways:

- Finance Act 2012 Notes for Guidance for VAT,

- Revenue Tax Briefing (No. 1 of 2012),

- VAT leaflet on the VAT treatment of Entrance fees to Historic Houses and Gardens and certain other admissions to, and rights over, property, and

- The VAT rates database available on Revenue’s website.

I am further advised that the 2012 Notes for Guidance and the 2012 Tax Briefing remain available in the Historic Material section of Revenue’s website and the current guidance for these services is set out in the VAT rates database.

Since 1 January 2019, these services are liable to the reduced rate (13.5%) as is the case with similar tourism related services.

State Pension (Contributory)

Questions (143)

John Brassil

Question:

143. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Finance if clarification will be provided on a matter in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23239/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The question of entitlement to a State Contributory Pension, including the amount to be paid, is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Revenue has no role to play in this regard.

However, Revenue does provide the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) with PRSI related information in respect of individual taxpayers, including self-employed persons. The information is routinely transferred to DEASP via electronic data transfer and includes details of the amount of PRSI due, the amount paid, whether any amount is uncollected and whether any liability is the subject of an appeal to the independent Tax Appeals Commission (TAC). Where a taxpayer requests an appeal from the TAC, all collection is suspended by Revenue until the amount in question is determined by the TAC as being properly due.  

The person in question was assessed by Revenue for additional tax liability, including PRSI, for the years quoted by the Deputy. He subsequently appealed Revenue’s decision to the TAC but the issue has not yet been determined. The details of the amounts involved in the appeal were provided by Revenue to the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection (DEASP) in the normal manner without any instruction that tax was owed. 

Revenue has advised me that it understands that DEASP is currently reviewing the person’s pension entitlements and will engage directly with him as part of that process.