112. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will address a matter regarding Army pay (details supplied). [23674/19]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 112-127
Questions Nos. 113 and 114 answered with Question No. 100.
112. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will address a matter regarding Army pay (details supplied). [23674/19]View answer
The figures quoted were supplied by the Department of Defences' payroll provider and are based on total pay and all allowances received by Defence Force personnel in the year 2018. The figures quoted represent the average gross earnings (including pay and allowances) for enlisted personnel and officers who were employed in the Defence Forces for the entire 12 month period.
115. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the necessary funding will be provided to ensure the air traffic control tower at Baldonnel Aerodrome is opened 24/7. [23768/19]View answer
The Air Corps is experiencing a shortage of trained Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel which has necessitated a reduction in operating hours. Actions are underway to return to previous levels of ATC services. While it is not yet possible to state definitively when 24hr operations will resume, ATC training is taking place and options to ensure the longer term sustainability of ATC services in Baldonnel are also being identified.
116. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of heavy recovery trucks purchased for the Permanent Defence Forces in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; and the number withdrawn during the same period. [23769/19]View answer
My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, is maintained to the greatest extent possible 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.
The Army's fleet of recovery vehicles is a key asset and assists in the recovery of Defence Forces armoured and non-armoured vehicles both at home and overseas. The fleet consists of 19 vehicles in total comprising five heavy recovery vehicles, five medium recovery vehicles and nine light recovery vehicles.
During the period 2017 to 2019 to date there were no heavy recovery vehicles withdrawn from service and, consequently there were no vehicles of this particular nature purchased in that period.
I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary modern and effective range of equipment available to them, which is in line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.
117. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Army personnel who left employment early in each year since 2010; the number who made a payment to the Defence Forces and-or his Department as a result of ending their contract early; the amount paid in each year by such persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23843/19]View answer
The following table provides details of the total number of personnel discharged from the army from 2010 to 2018.
*Discharge by Purchase
**Voluntary early retirement
***Other discharges including retirements on age grounds
There are a range of reasons why personnel retire from the Defence Forces.
*Discharge by purchase occurs when a non commissioned officer or private elects to leave the Defence Forces and pays an appropriate sum to discharge, in accordance with Defence Force Regulation A10 Paragraph 61 (3). Recruits can also elect to discharge by purchase and a significant proportion of recruits, approx. 22% on average, depart from the Defence Forces during the training phase for various reasons.
**Voluntary early retirements occur when personnel wish to end their service at break points before reaching the mandatory retirement age limit for his/her respective rank. These retirements occur at the persons own request, at his/her request after 12 years, expiry of PDF service, on pension after 21 years or on termination of engagement.
***Other discharges include retirement on age grounds, death, below medical standards, service no longer required, or unlikely to become effective.
The amount paid by those who purchased their discharge in the period mentioned in the question could not be ascertained in the timeframe set out for reply and I will revert once the figures are provided to me.
118. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding the mid-life refit of LÉ Róisín; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24119/19]View answer
The P50 class of vessels in the Naval Service ship flotilla were built in Appledore Shipyard in the UK. LÉ Róisín (P51) was commissioned in 1999, with LÉ Niamh (P52) commissioned in 2001. The service life of an Irish Naval Service ship is determined by the level of operational activity, but usually is around 30 years. It is, however, normal practice in a ship’s life to carry out a mid-life refurbishment / extension programme so as to extend the useful life of a ship to thirty (or more) years.
The P50 class vessels, 20 and 18 years old this year, now fall into the category of ship requiring a mid-life refurbishment / extension programme. Due to their age profile, much of the auxiliary equipment onboard is coming to the end of its useful life or is becoming obsolete and requires to be replaced in a structured manner.
The Mid-Life Extension Programme of LÉ Róisín commenced in March 2019, with an initial dry-docking phase to be followed by an extended period of equipment upgrade and refit works. Works are progressing as planned. LÉ Niamh’s extension programme is due to commence in 2020. Over the course of their extension programmes, LÉ Róisín and LÉ Niamh will be out of operation for a period of some twelve months each.
The addition of LÉ George Bernard Shaw to the fleet ensures that the Naval Service continue to have eight seagoing ships operational for the medium term. Future Naval Service capabilities are planned as part of the White Paper on Defence project planning process which will determine the Defence Forces maritime capabilities.
119. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the estimated full year cost if the security duty allowance of €23.81 per day for less than 24 hours was increased to €38.50 per day and from €47.59 per day to €72 per day for 24 hours duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24120/19]View answer
Security Duty Allowance (SDA) is paid to Defence Forces personnel for certain duties performed. Many security duties are demand led and the number of duties can fluctuate year on year. It is therefore not possible to provide a full year cost of the suggested increase mentioned.
In accordance with the Public Service Stability Agreement, 2013-2016, (the Haddington Road Agreement), all sectors across the public service were required to contribute to additional pay and productivity measures. Other sectors delivered these savings through a variety of approaches including additional working time and reduced rates of overtime payments.
The contribution from the Defence sector included a reduction of 10% on the rate of certain allowances payable to the Defence Forces. As part of the cost saving measures to be secured under the agreement, it was also agreed with the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations that the Saturday and Sunday rates for Security Duty Allowance would be flat rated.
The cost of restoring the premium rates and the 10% cut to SDA introduced in the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016, would be in the region of €2 million per annum. This figure is based on the 2018 payments of SDA. As security duties are demand led and the number of duties can fluctuate year on year, this variable must be taken into consideration in comparing any actual figures with speculative amounts.
It should be noted that the representative associations for the Permanent Defence Force, PDFORRA and RACO have made claims for the restoration of the premium rates which is being processed through the Conciliation and Arbitration (C&A) Scheme. As discussions under the C&A scheme are confidential to the parties involved, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this time.
120. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if funding is available for an event (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23184/19]View answer
My Department’s Reconciliation Fund awards grants to organisations working to build better relations within and between traditions in Northern Ireland, between North and South, and between Ireland and Britain. It operates on the basis of two annual funding rounds. The first round of 2019 opened on 26 March and closed on 16 April. By the closing date, no funding application had been received in respect of the particular event referred to by the Deputy. The organisation which I understand will hold this event, has, however, been in contact separately with my officials, since the first funding round closed, regarding the possibility of making an application in the future. My officials are assisting the organisation with its enquiries and providing it with the necessary information to enable it to apply, should it wish to do so, in a future funding round.
Details of the timing for the second funding round will be posted to the Reconciliation Fund page on my Department’s website during summer 2019. Further information on the operation of the Fund and the application process are available at: https://www.dfa.ie/about-us/funding/reconciliation-fund/.
121. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason a passport for a child (details supplied) cannot be processed; the position in respect of the requirement for two years proof of common usage in the case; and if the application can be processed as originally requested by appointment. [23211/19]View answer
I am advised by the Passport Service that the application to which you refer requested that the passport issue in a name other than that noted on the applicant’s birth certificate and that in the absence of legal documents verifying this change of name, the passport issued to the applicant in the name noted on their birth certificate.
All passport applications are subject to the terms of the Passports Act, 2008, as amended (“the Act“). The Act provides a legal basis for the various policies and procedures that are applied by the Passport Service in the issue of passports.
Section 10 of the Act provides that a passport will issue in the name of a citizen as it appears on his/her birth certificate or naturalisation certificate. Under the Act, a passport can be issued in a different name from that which appears on a person’s birth certificate in situations such as marriage, civil partnership etc. where civil or legal documents are available to verify this change.
In cases where a name change arises other than by marriage, civil partnership or adoption, section 10 of the Act specifically requires evidence of the use of this new name over a two year period to be submitted before a passport can issue in a new name.
The requirement for two years proof of usage does not, however, apply to cases where a birth certificate has been re-registered. In order for a passport to issue in a new name where the birth certificate has been amended, a new passport application will have to be submitted and that application must include the original amended birth certificate as issued by the General Registrar.
122. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the increase in serious security incidents against members of an organisation (details supplied); his views on the situation; if he will request information on actions that the Government of Guatemala plans to take to guarantee the life and safety of the persons threatened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23238/19]View answer
I am aware of the situation to which the Deputy refers, and of the difficult situation more generally that currently exists for human rights defenders, activists and social leaders in Guatemala.
Ireland is fully committed to supporting the promotion and protection of human rights and open civil society space globally and I would like to take this opportunity to strongly condemn any threats, intimidation or violence against those defending human rights and exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Recent actions taken by the Government of Guatemala have served to increase tensions regarding the status of the rule of law and democracy in the country. Ireland, along with our EU partners, has expressed alarm over the increasing number of attacks and killings of human rights defenders over the past year, as reported by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and calls on the government of Guatemala to uphold fundamental democratic principles and respect human rights.
Ireland regularly engages on the situation in Guatemala at EU level. I fully support the statement by EU High Representative Mogherini of 26 March last which voiced concern regarding the proposed amendments to the National Reconciliation Law in Guatemala, which would result in an immediate amnesty for perpetrators of grave human rights violations during the civil war. The proposed amendments to the law governing non-governmental organisations would also impede these groups' work and curtail the activities of human rights defenders.
Ireland, along with our EU colleagues, deeply regrets the decision of the Government of Guatemala to terminate the 2006 Agreement with the UN establishing the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
Since its establishment, the CICIG has been working effectively to combat corruption and impunity and to strengthen the rule of law in Guatemala. I would like to again urge the Guatemalan Government to allow CICIG to continue its important work until the end of the current mandate in September 2019, respecting the integrity of CICIG national and international personnel and affording them all necessary protection.
Officials at my Department in Dublin, and at our Embassy in Mexico, which has responsibility for our relations with Guatemala, are monitoring events in Guatemala closely and meet regularly with civil society and human rights groups to discuss the very concerning situation for human rights defenders in the country.
Officials recently met with representatives of the organisation referred to by the Deputy, along with representatives from Peace Brigades International (PBI), a civil society organisation that receives funding from the Department. PBI provides protection measures to human rights defenders in Guatemala, including members of the 'New Day Ch'orti' Campesino Central Coordinator (CCCND), and my Department is pleased to support PBI in this important work.
Support for human rights defenders is a long established priority of Ireland’s foreign policy and we proudly play an active role in championing the promotion and protection of such activists, and indeed of open civil society space globally.
Officials at my Department will continue to monitor developments in Guatemala closely and to engage on the human rights situation in the country with our EU, international and civil society partners.
123. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Moldova joining the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23280/19]View answer
The European Commission published its Annual Enlargement Package and country reports on 29 May. These are currently being examined in depth, in preparation for a discussion on enlargement at the General Affairs Council on 18 June..
Serbia and Montenegro are both candidate countries that are currently negotiating their accession to the Union. The Commission notes that both countries have made progress, but need to act with greater determination, particularly in the area of rule of law. Serbia should make efforts towards greater alignment with the Union’s foreign policy.
On North Macedonia and Albania, the Commission has once again recommended opening accession negotiations this year. North Macedonia has made significant progress in key reform areas, and the Prespa Agreement between it and Greece is an example to the region. Albania has continued to make good progress, particularly in the implementation of significant reforms to the justice sector, although the polarised political environment there is a cause for concern. As a strong supporter of enlargement, Ireland welcomes the conclusions of the Commission and will support opening negotiations with both Albania and North Macedonia this year.
Moldova is not currently a candidate for accession to the EU, however it is a participant in the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy, and has aspirations to one day become a candidate country. We are supportive of the aspirations of the countries in the European Neighbourhood, provided they are able to meet the criteria to become candidate countries.
124. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he can assist an Irish person living in China (details supplied). [23564/19]View answer
I am aware of this ongoing consular case.
While I understand this must be a very difficult situation for the citizen, neither the Embassy nor the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can interfere with the judicial and legal processes in another country, including on visa and immigration matters.
I can confirm that the citizen in question is in direct contact with the Embassy in Beijing which continues to provide appropriate advice and support.
125. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the recent urgent plea made by medics and an organisation (details supplied) regarding massacres in north-west Syria by constant air attacks; the efforts being made to reduce deaths in remaining conflict zones; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23596/19]View answer
I remain deeply concerned about the plight of the Syrian people, and I am particularly concerned by the worsening humanitarian situation in the north-west of the country. The latest violence there has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, and displaced over 270,000 people last month, bringing the total number of displaced to over 300,000 since April. I am aware of the very alarming reports from medical professionals and other humanitarian organisations - including the organisation referred to by the Deputy - in relation to the situation there. I condemn in particular the airstrikes that are reported to have targeted medical facilities and schools, in contravention of international humanitarian law. Ireland will continue to call on all parties to uphold their ceasefire commitments, and cease military activities in the Idlib region. We will also continue to urge those with influence on the Syrian regime to exert pressure to ensure that civilians are protected, and to encourage the Syrian Government to engage fully with the UN-led peace process.
This upsurge in violence has also had a serious impact on critical civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, and the ability of humanitarian actors to carry out their activities has been severely compromised. I urge all actors to abide by UN deconfliction mechanisms to prevent further casualties and destruction, and to guarantee unrestricted access and safe channels for humanitarian assistance to reach those most in need.
Ireland and the EU firmly believe that eight years of war have shown that military action cannot bring lasting peace to Syria. Only a holistic and comprehensive political process can bring about a lasting end to the conflict. Ireland fully supports the UN-led efforts to bring about a political resolution to the conflict, in accordance with the 2012 Geneva Communiqué and UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The EU provides direct assistance to the Geneva peace talks and has launched, in coordination with the UN, an initiative to develop political dialogue with key actors from the region to identify common ground.
Ireland is a strong and consistent donor to the Syria crisis response, and our funding supports those in most need inside Syria as well as Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in the region. In March 2019, Ireland pledged a further €25m contribution to Syria and the region this year, bringing the total amount of humanitarian assistance committed to the Syria crisis to over €143 million since 2012 – our largest ever response to any single crisis. Our 2019 funding includes a contribution of €2.5 million to the United Nation’s Turkey Humanitarian Fund for the Syria Response (THF), which is supporting the emergency cross-border response to the current humanitarian situation in northwest Syria.
Ireland will continue to follow the situation closely, and engage with the UN and other partners operating in the region as the situation unfolds.
126. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position in respect of the talks with the political parties in Northern Ireland and the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland regarding the need to have the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive restored at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23634/19]View answer
The absence of vital institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is of grave concern for the Government, as it is for the British Government.
On 26 April, the Taoiseach and Prime Minister May announced a new phase of political talks in Northern Ireland, involving the five main parties, together with the British and Irish Governments. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, and I convened these talks in Belfast on 7 May.
There has been constructive engagement in the process and it is clear that the parties want to see the institutions of the Agreement operating again on a sustainable basis. There has been broad consensus on some issues, but also key issues are still to be resolved.
I and the Secretary of State believe that there is a genuine but narrow window of opportunity to reach agreement in the period immediately ahead and that it is essential to continue and intensify talks to this end.
In their joint statement on 2 June, the Taoiseach and Prime Minister welcomed the constructive engagement in the process and underlined that it is imperative that the parties now move without delay to engaging substantively on the shape of a final agreement.
Accordingly, the two Governments supported an intensification of the talks last week and there was engagement on outstanding issues by the leaders of the five political parties. Secretary of State Bradley and I are intensively engaged on behalf the two Governments in the talks at Stormont again this week, to encourage the party leaders to move towards a final agreement.
Ultimately, it will be for the parties to rise to the challenge of finding an agreement. This will be difficult, but the two Governments believe that this can, and must, be achieved to get the devolved, power-sharing Assembly and Executive and the North South Ministerial Council functioning again.
The Government will continue to do everything in its power, in accordance with its responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.
127. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to have a bilateral meeting with the UN Secretary General. [24014/19]View answer
Ireland strongly supports the United Nations and the vital role it plays in the multilateral system. The role of the Secretary-General is crucial to the effective functioning of the UN and, in this respect, Ireland strongly backs the leadership of Mr. António Guterres and the reforms which he is overseeing.
I have met bilaterally in the past with Secretary-General Guterres, and I very much hope to do so again in the future. The General Debate, which will be held at UNHQ in September, should provide an opportunity for the Irish delegation to meet with Mr. Guterres, and we will be seeking to meet with him at that point.
Given the priority that Ireland attaches to the UN, I believe it is important to meet with senior officials from across the Organisation whenever possible, both to hear from them on their areas of work and to convey Ireland’s perspective on issues of significance to us. In this regard, I held bilateral meetings earlier this year at the UN in Geneva with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi.