Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Questions (113, 114)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

113. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which staffing levels at each embassy throughout the EU and elsewhere are being increased due to the potential demand and extra responsibilities arising in the aftermath of Brexit and with a view to ensuring that the diplomatic footprint of Ireland is maximised in order to compete at all levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25574/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

114. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which staffing levels in the trade sector of embassies throughout Europe are being increased to meet the likely challenges in the aftermath of Brexit in view of the need to ensure that every opportunity is availed of to expand trade and establish new markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25575/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 114 together.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and its Missions overseas are active in our response to Brexit, and staffing levels have been augmented in response.

As Brexit looms closer, 'Global Ireland 2025' will support efforts to grow and diversify export markets, inward investment and tourism. It will ensure that Ireland is better positioned to build the alliances necessary to advance its interests and defend its positions in a post-Brexit EU, while also helping to secure our deep and positive relationship with the UK and its constituent parts into the future.

My Department is in the process of significant expansion. We are recruiting actively at Headquarters and continue to strengthen our teams in EU Member States, assigning additional personnel in key posts abroad including Brussels, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw and others.

In addition, in the past year new Embassies have opened in Wellington, Bogotá, Amman, Monrovia and Santiago de Chile, and new Consulates General in Vancouver, Mumbai, and Cardiff. This brings to 88 the number of diplomatic Missions in the network. The expansion will continue this year with new Consulates General in Los Angeles and Frankfurt. Embassies in Kyiv, Manila and Rabat will follow shortly thereafter.

These new Missions are working to enhance Ireland's international visibility; promote our prosperity by developing high level business, community and political contacts; protect and advance Ireland's interests and values in Europe; and deliver on our commitments under Ireland's new policy for International Development 'A Better World'.

Our network of locally hired Commercial Officers is designed to bolster the capacity of our Mission network in selected locations to support economic promotion under the Department’s ‘Prosperity’ high level goal, and improve our capacity to support market diversification.

Working closely with the economic State Agencies and the Trade Division of my Department, the posts have facilitated trade promotion in such areas as market access, visibility, contact and information, market intelligence, and support to businesses, and have enabled the Missions to advance their economic goals.

Significant funds have been allocated for Brexit-related expenditure in DFAT in 2019 which includes investment in the Global Ireland initiative. The allocation allows further expansion and deepening of our whole of Government Brexit preparedness planning. Funding has been earmarked for the Passport Service, and to support essential reconciliation work being carried out by civil society in Northern Ireland and across the island of Ireland, and North-South cooperation.

The Passport Service continues to see rising demand for passports, and I have strengthened the capacity of the office by recruiting additional permanent and temporary staff over the past twelve months to respond to the general increase in passport applications, including over 200 Temporary Clerical Officers assigned to the processing of applications.

These measures remain under review. The Department will allocate additional staff resources as deemed necessary to further augment our level of support across Government and across our network.