96. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent engagements with the National Economic and Social Council. [23188/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 96-111
96. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent engagements with the National Economic and Social Council. [23188/19]View answer
The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) is an independent statutory agency operating under the aegis of my Department. The Council analyses and reports on strategic policy matters relevant to Ireland's economic, social, environmental and sustainable development.
In accordance with the NESDO Act 2006 I have certain functions such as appointing the members of the NESC, presenting reports to Government prior to publication, or prior to laying before the Houses as in the case of the Annual Reports.
NESC provides value as a forum where economic, social and environmental issues can be discussed on a multilateral basis across a variety of actors and sectors and with Government Departments. This is important for policy-making.
The work and associated reports of the NESC provide a unique analysis of the challenges facing Irish society and are an important contribution to policy development as they often have a focus on the strategic and longer-term view. For example, as part of Future Jobs Ireland 2019, NESC will develop policy recommendations for the operation of Transition Teams to manage the impact of economic transition on vulnerable workers and sectors. The project will provide a forward look at the economy in the context of a transition to a low-carbon and more digital future.
Recent reports published by the Council include:
- Climate Change Policy: Getting the Process Right;
- Transport Orientated Development: Assessing Opportunity for Ireland;
- Moving from Welfare to Work: Low Work Intensity Households and the Quality of Supportive Services; and
- Urban Development Land, Housing and Infrastructure: Fixing Ireland’s Broken System.
I brought these reports to Government in advance of publication.
Since becoming Taoiseach, I have made nine appointments to the NESC. Five appointments were made on the basis of nominations from sectoral organisations, as provided for in the legislation. In the independent category, I appointed four members following an open selection process conducted by the Public Appointments Service.
The Council is funded through my Department’s Vote and my Department also has governance responsibilities in relation to the Council.
97. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the parliamentary liaison unit of his Department. [23189/19]View answer
The Parliamentary Liaison Unit (PLU) was established in 2016. It is staffed by 4 staff members; a Principal Officer; two Higher Executive Officers (1.5) and a Clerical Officer. Its role is to facilitate the enhanced relationship between the Government and the Oireachtas and in this regard its work is complementary to that of the Office of the Government Chief Whip helping to ensure the implementation of the Government's legislative programme.
The Unit also liaises on a regular basis with advisers and Departments with a view to ensuring that they are aware of Oireachtas issues and to assist them in engaging with the new processes arising from Dail reform.
In addition, the PLU works closely with Government Departments on their input to Private Members Business (PMB) in both the Dáil and the Seanad.
In July 2018, in an effort to improve the system for dealing with PMBs, the Government and the Sub Committee on Dáil Reform both approved an MOU between the Government and Dáil Eireann on Private Members’ Bills.
The PLU will continue to provide guidance and advice for Departments on the Government Commitments contained in the MOU.
98. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the leader of the Labour Party in the UK, Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, on 30 May 2019; and the issues that he discussed. [23340/19]View answer
I met with the Leader of the British Labour Party, Mr Jeremy Corbyn MP in Government Buildings on Thursday 30 May 2019. Mr Corbyn was accompanied by Tony Lloyd, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and advisers.
We discussed Northern Ireland, Brexit, and the current political situation in Westminster. Discussions focused principally on the need to restore a power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland and the importance of ongoing engagement with all political parties in the North.
Mr Corbyn and I also considered Brexit, with both of us sharing serious concerns about a no deal scenario and its inherent dangers, including the possibility that the UK may end up in a no deal situation by default unless alternatives are pursued. We also discussed the importance of avoiding any return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.
We agreed to stay in touch with regard to both Northern Ireland and Brexit.
99. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach the date of all Cabinet committee meetings on climate change since 1 May 2016. [23472/19]View answer
Since the formation of the current Government in June 2017, discussions about climate change at Cabinet Committee level primarily take place at meetings of Cabinet Committee D, which also deals with infrastructure and housing issues. Cabinet Committee D has met on the following dates: 27 May 2019; 31 January 2019; 1 February 2018; 23 November 2017 and 12 September 2017.
Under the term of the previous Government, discussions about climate change at Cabinet Committee level primarily took place at meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, Environment and Climate Action, which met on the following dates: 15 May 2017; 30 January 2017; 12 December 2016; 25 October 2016; and 7 July 2016.
In view of the cross cutting nature of climate change, matters relevant to climate change may also be discussed at other Cabinet Committees.
In keeping with the principles of Cabinet confidentiality and collective responsibility, it is not appropriate to divulge details of what was discussed at Cabinet Committee meetings.
100. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of Army personnel did not receive their postal votes for the most recent elections and referendum. [23752/19]View answer
107. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if there was a delay in issuing postal votes to Defence Forces personnel for the 2019 local and European elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23456/19]View answer
110. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if an investigation is taking place with regard to some members of the Defence Forces not receiving their postal vote in time to vote; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23563/19]View answer
113. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Army personnel who may have lost their right to vote due to the fact their ballot papers did not arrive in time for the recent local and European elections and the divorce referendum. [23750/19]View answer
114. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Army personnel who did not receive ballot papers in time to cast their votes in the recent local and European elections and the divorce referendum. [23751/19]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 100, 107, 110, 113 and 114 together.
The nature of military service requires that all members of the Permanent Defence Force who elect to vote, must do so through the postal voting system as they may not have the option to vote in person. The Defence Forces place a very high level of importance on ensuring that all personnel are provided with the opportunity to register for and to receive a postal vote.
To that end, personnel are provided with access to registration forms, through the chain of command. A significant operation then takes place to ensure that those who are registered to vote, at home or overseas, are provided with postal votes, to enable them to exercise their right to vote.
I am informed that a number of personnel have expressed concern that they did not receive a postal vote. These concerns are being examined by the military authorities in the context of a review of the operation of the postal voting system with a view to ensure that processes and procedures are optimised. I have been informed that this review will capture the number of those affected. The review is expected to conclude shortly.
101. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number, location and value of lands acquired by his Department by way of CPO in the past three years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23244/19]View answer
My Department has not acquired any lands by CPO in the past three years.
102. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 111 of 21 May 2019, the number of personnel who entered and left, respectively, the Reserve Defence Forces by unit and corps served in each of the years 2012 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23420/19]View answer
The information sought by the Deputy is in the process of being collated and verified by the military authorities. I will pass on the details to the Deputy when they become available.
103. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of cook allowances and back pay agreed in recent years for the Army Ranger Wing of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23424/19]View answer
There are a number of outstanding Adjudication findings across the Public Service, two of which are the Defence Forces Cooks technical pay and the Army Ranger Wing Allowance, that could not be implemented having regard to the provisions of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009-2015.
The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, provides for consideration of a process to address any outstanding adjudications, having due regard to the question of their continued validity and cost implications.
The Official side had discussions with PDFORRA on the process, under the Conciliation and Arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. Pursuant to these discussions the High Court granted PDFORRA leave to seek Judicial Review.
As this matter is currently the subject of High Court proceedings, it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this time.
104. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the ratio of instructors to trainees at the Curragh Army camp transport section; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23425/19]View answer
There are no specific ratios for courses run in the Transport School, due to the range and variety of courses conducted there. There are specific courses such as the Motor Transport Driver Instructors Course and the Motor Transport Driver Testers Course where the School operates a 2:1 Student to Instructor ratio. There are ratios for Defence Forces driver training courses run within Brigades and Formations; this is a ratio of 2:1 Student to Instructor as per the Defence Forces Driver Training Instruction 02/2016.
105. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the vacancies among instructors in the Defence Forces across each section; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23426/19]View answer
It has not been possible in the time available to compile all the necessary documentation requested by the Deputy. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.
Question No. 107 answered with Question No. 100.
106. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding an application for a transfer within the Defence Forces by a person (details supplied). [23444/19]View answer
When an enlisted member of the Defence Forces seeks to transfer from one service corps to another the consent of the Formation Commanders in both areas must be obtained. The transfer will proceed if both Formation Commanders give consent but will not take place if both do not consent. Where there is disagreement between the two, the application is passed to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) for final decision.
The transfer request referred to by the Deputy is subject to the above procedure and is still under consideration by the military authorities.
108. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the level of payment received by the State from the United Nations per soldier per day for Defence Forces personnel on peacekeeping missions abroad; the proportion of the per capita payment that goes directly to the individual serving member; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23521/19]View answer
The United Nations reimburses some personnel and Contingent Owed Equipment costs in respect of contributions to UN led operations. Rates of reimbursement, fixed in accordance with UN categories of equipment and personnel, are agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the UN for each mission. The only missions for which Ireland is currently entitled to reimbursement of some troop and equipment costs are the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights. The timing of the receipt of reimbursements is dependent on the financial situation at the UN. Reimbursements are received in arrears.
A standard UN rate of reimbursement of $1,428 (€1262) per month is paid to troop contributing countries in respect of each member of a military unit deployed to a United Nation field mission. This reimbursement represents a contribution by the UN towards troop sustainment costs incurred by the member States including, for example, the provision of food, lodging, medical support, communications, ordnance, and other goods and services and is paid directly to Governments in respect of deployed personnel.
While deployed on such operations, personnel are paid a daily Unarmed or Armed Peace Support Allowance depending on the nature of the mission. Unarmed Peace Support Allowance ranges from €55.14 to €79.51 per day depending on rank, equivalent to about €1,677 to €2,418 per month. For personnel in receipt of Armed Peace Support Allowance, the daily rates range from €76.36 to €101.75, equivalent to about €2,322 to €3,094 per month. Both unarmed and armed peace support allowance are non taxable.
In addition, while serving on a UN peacekeeping mission, the UN also facilities the payment directly to personnel of a daily allowance of $1.28 plus a recreational leave allowance of $10.50 per day for up to 15 days of leave taken during each six-month period.
Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 100.
109. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if soldiers who are on leave from UN peacekeeping duties and missions abroad must physically leave the area of operation for the duration of their leave; if it is the responsibility of the individual member who is on leave to bear the financial cost of returning here when on leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23526/19]View answer
The leave that may be granted to Defence Forces personnel when on service outside the State with an International United Nations Force, is subject to the UN regulation governing that Force. As such, different annual leave arrangements apply to different mission areas, depending on specific mission Standard Operating Procedures. Considerations such as security and operational and logistical concerns that pertain to that mission area and surrounding territories are taken into account.
Defence Forces personnel are not obliged to take mission leave in Ireland. The cost of returning to Ireland or travelling to another destination while on leave, is borne by the individual, except for specific instances when personnel are granted special leave. Deployed personnel who avail of special leave during their deployment may have their flights home paid at national expense. Applications for special leave can include, travel on compassionate grounds - e.g. bereavement, exceptional domestic circumstances - travel for work-related purposes such as attendance at meetings and briefings or travel for mission related purposes.
While deployed on overseas operations, personnel are paid a daily Unarmed or Armed Peace Support Allowance depending on the nature of the mission. Unarmed Peace Support Allowance ranges from €55.14 to €79.51 per day depending on rank, equivalent to about €1,677 to €2,418 per month. For personnel in receipt of Armed Peace Support Allowance, the daily rates range from €76.36 to €101.75, equivalent to about €2,322 to €3,094 per month. Both unarmed and armed peace support allowance are non taxable and are paid for the duration of the overseas deployment including periods of leave. In addition, while serving on a UN peacekeeping mission, the UN also facilities the payment directly to personnel of a daily allowance of $1.28 plus a recreational leave allowance of $10.50 per day for up to 15 days of leave taken during each six-month period.
111. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of staff working in the procurement area for major State infrastructure projects in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23660/19]View answer
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.
In accordance with the National Development Plan, the capital allocation for Defence has been increased to €106 million for 2019, an increase of €29 million. The National Development Plan provides for a total of €541 million for Defence over the period 2018-2022. 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 Department’s Contracts Branch manages overall procurement policy within the Defence Organisation, reflecting the specialised nature of the equipment profile and works on major projects in conjunction with various units within the Defence Forces. Contracts Branch, which has a staffing complement of nine, has a range of functions within the procurement area ranging from the direct management of procurement activities for defensive equipment and materials including ammunition, the contract management of major capital equipment programmes as set out in the White Paper on Defence, the disposal of obsolete equipment and corporate governance issues. The Branch engages with the Office of Government Procurement and provides procurement advice to other Branches of the Defence Organisation.
In addition, procurement procedures are in place in the Defence Organisation to provide a joint civil and military forum for oversight and approval of expenditure and to ensure that expenditure is profiled and monitored on an ongoing basis. In this regard a High Level Planning and Procurement Group (HLPPG) comprising of senior civil and military management of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, and an associated Working Group meet on a monthly basis. The Group also develops and implements multi annual plans for the Defence Forces for equipment procurement and for infrastructural development based on policy priorities in the White Paper.
I am advised that procurement of major State infrastructure projects are kept under constant review to support good procurement practice, project management and good corporate governance, and to ensure that the tender processes are carried out in an appropriate manner.