Departmental Expenditure

Questions (103)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

103. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount spent by his Department on the recent visit by the President of the United States in June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24969/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The recent visit of the President of the United States of America and First Lady Melania Trump to Ireland served to support the promotion of Ireland’s interests in the US and also contributed to the development of our strong economic, political and cultural links with the US.

Costs relating to the visit which will be charged to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are not yet finalised. To date we have received invoices totalling €1,355.00 and these are currently being processed for payment.

I will be happy to provide the Deputy with the final costs in due course.

Brexit Issues

Questions (104)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

104. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the concerns of and issues relating to young persons are being considered in the Brexit negotiations (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25096/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The negotiations on the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union are concluded. On 25 November 2018, the European Council endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and approved the Political Declaration on the EU-UK future relationship. The Withdrawal Agreement was also agreed by the British Cabinet, although it has yet to be ratified in the UK.

Throughout the negotiations there has been a strong understanding, and support, from our EU partners, of the need to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. North-South economic and social cooperation has benefitted people across the island, and supported the development of an all-island economy that has enhanced the prosperity of all, and underscored the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which forms an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement, therefore contains important commitments and assurances in this regard, regarding the Good Friday Agreement, North-South cooperation and citizens’ rights.

At the same time, in co-operation with our UK partners, we have worked to reaffirm the Common Travel Area arrangement between Ireland and the UK, and our shared commitment to protect the associated reciprocal rights and privileges it provides. These arrangements guarantee the rights of Irish and British citizens to live, work, study, and access healthcare, social security and public services in each other’s jurisdictions. The CTA is an important enabler of the cross-border freedoms central to the lives and livelihoods of the people of Northern Ireland and the border region. This include young people who, no matter what the outcome to Brexit, will be able to move freely across the island to live, work or study.

Together with UK Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the Common Travel Area (CTA) and its associated reciprocal rights and privileges in London on 8 May, immediately prior to the meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

It remains our priority to achieve the closest possible relationship with the UK, post-Brexit. Issues of importance to young people will also be addressed as part of the negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. This is supported by the Political Declaration on the EU-UK future relationship, which establishes the framework for the negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, and makes clear the determination of both sides to achieve an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership, including in the areas of youth, culture and education.

Northern Ireland

Questions (105, 108)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

105. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has been provided with an update by his officials on the way in which the talks in Northern Ireland are progressing. [24048/19]

View answer

Michael Moynihan

Question:

108. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the Good Friday Agreement institutions being re-established; and the active role that he and his officials are having on same. [17822/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 108 together.

The absence of vital institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is a matter of grave concern for the Government, as it is for the British Government.

On 26 April, the Taoiseach and the UK Prime Minister 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 and I convened these talks in Belfast on 7 May.

There has been constructive engagement in the process thus far 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.

The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister, in their joint statement on 2 June, welcomed the constructive engagement in the process so far 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 over the last two weeks and there has been direct engagement on outstanding issues by the leaders of the five political parties.

Secretary of State Bradley and I are continuing to engage intensively this week on behalf the two Governments in the talks, encouraging the party leaders to move towards a final agreement.

Ultimately, it will be for the parties to rise to the challenge of reaching this 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.

EU Meetings

Questions (106)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

106. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the war in Libya was discussed at the recent EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in May 2019. [22672/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

At the Foreign Affairs Council on 13 May 2019, my EU counterparts and I had the opportunity to discuss recent developments in Libya, including the ongoing fighting around Tripoli, with the United Nations Special Representative for Libya, Ghassan Salamé. This conflict is endangering civilians, including vulnerable migrants and refugees, and disrupting efforts to find a political way forward for Libya.

The EU called on the parties to the conflict in Libya to immediately implement a ceasefire and to engage with the UN to ensure a full and comprehensive cessation of hostilities. We called on all parties to protect civilians, including migrants and refugees, by allowing and facilitating a safe, rapid and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and services to all those affected, and recalled that those breaching International Humanitarian Law must be held to account. Finally, we recalled that there is no military solution to the crisis in Libya, and urged all parties to recommit to the UN-facilitated political dialogue, and to work towards a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political solution through an inclusive political process.

EU diplomats regularly discuss the situation in Libya, taking stock of any opportunities to exert a positive influence on the situation, and to support political efforts to resolve the conflict. In recent EU discussions on Libya, Irish officials have highlighted the importance of guaranteeing the safety of refugees and migrants.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 105.

Questions (107)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

107. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has received a response from the British Government or his UK counterpart for information they might have on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings; and the progress on the matter following the recent meeting post the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. [22670/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

17 May last marked the 45th anniversary of the appalling attacks of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in which 33 people were murdered. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charles Flanagan, represented the Government at the remembrance ceremony in Dublin.

The Government stands in solidarity with all those who lost loved ones or were injured on that day, and who suffer still as a result of these bombings.

The implementation of the All-Party Dáil motions relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is a priority for the Government, as highlighted in the Programme for a Partnership Government. The All-Party motion on the 1974 Dublin Monaghan bombings adopted by the Dáil on 25 May 2016 has, like those adopted in 2008 and 2011, been conveyed to the British Government.

These motions call on the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as well as the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk and the murder of Seamus Ludlow.

The Government is committed to actively pursuing the implementation of these all-Party Dáil motions, and has consistently raised the issue with the British Government, including at the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference, most recently on 8 May.

I and Minister Flanagan made clear to our counterparts that the absence of a response from the British Government is of deep concern to the Government, and that there remains an urgent need for a response.

The Government will continue to engage with the British Government on this request, and pursue all possible avenues to achieve progress on this issue, consistent with the request made by this House and until a resolution is found.

The Government maintains a close and cooperative relationship with Justice for the Forgotten, as we continue work to seek the full facts of the appalling events of 25 May 1974 and of other attacks in this jurisdiction during the Troubles.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 105.

Departmental Properties

Questions (109)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

109. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of land purchased and leased by size and amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and amount expended per year in cases in which land is leased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25386/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

My Department does not purchase or lease any land in Ireland. Any properties or land occupied by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the State are leased and discharged by the Office of Public Works.

My Department manages property outside of the State. These properties are Embassies, Consulates-General and official accommodation which provide a platform to promote Ireland’s political, economic and cultural interests and values, to provide services to our citizens, to develop strategic stakeholder relationships and to represent Ireland in international organisations.

Departmental Properties

Questions (110)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

110. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of buildings and property purchased and leased and the amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and the amount expended per year in cases in which properties are leased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25403/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

My Department does not purchase or lease any buildings in Ireland. Any properties or land occupied by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the State are leased and discharged by the Office of Public Works. My Department manages property outside of the State. These properties are Embassies, Consulates-General and official accommodation which provide a platform to promote Ireland’s political, economic and cultural interests and values, to provide services to our citizens, to develop strategic stakeholder relationships and to represent Ireland in international organisations.

Rockall Island Ownership

Questions (111)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

111. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the implications of the agreement reached between Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2013 regarding the setting of the boundaries of the exclusive economic zone; if the agreement of 2013 has possible implications for the present difficulties between Ireland and Scotland regarding fishing rights around Rockall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25499/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, is the body of water that stretches from 12 nautical miles offshore out to a distance of 200 miles. The seabed beneath the EEZ is the continental shelf.

Largely due to efforts made by Ireland throughout the 1970s, international law is now clear that uninhabitable rocks such as Rockall have no entitlement to a continental shelf or an EEZ and so sovereignty over such a rock is irrelevant for the purposes of establishing boundaries between continental shelves and EEZs of neighbouring States. Sovereignty, and whether such a rock has a 12-mile territorial sea, are separate issues that do not arise in establishing boundaries between continental shelves and EEZs.

The issue of Rockall therefore did not arise in the 2013 Agreement as it was not relevant.

The 2013 Agreement built on the 1988 Agreement between Ireland and the UK that had already established continental shelf boundaries and provides that those boundaries, slightly adjusted to ensure that no waters were lost to the high seas, shall also be the EEZ boundaries. This created a single maritime boundary between 12 and 200 miles in the water and on the seabed beneath.

As you are aware, Ireland has never made any claims to Rockall nor have we recognised British claims to sovereignty over it. Nothing in either Agreement altered that position or represented a departure from our long held view, nor does either Agreement have any implications for the present difficulties between Ireland and Scotland over fishing rights around Rockall.

As regards the situation following Brexit the Irish and EU position is, as set out in the March 2018 European Council Guidelines for negotiations on the future relationship, that existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained. The 2013 Agreement between Ireland and the UK is not relevant for access by EU vessels to UK waters in that context.

The main purpose of the 2013 Agreement was to resolve jurisdictional uncertainty. It addressed the situation of fishing vessels seeking to avoid inspection in Irish EEZ areas that overlapped with the UK-claimed areas. Importantly, however, it also provides the legal certainty necessary for raising finance to develop renewable energy projects in the areas concerned and it resolved confusion over responsibility for dealing with marine pollution incidents in those areas.

Passport Applications

Questions (112)

Seán Fleming

Question:

112. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding a person in circumstances (details supplied) who is seeking an Irish passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25565/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act 2008. The Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him/her. In order to meet this requirement, each person must demonstrate an entitlement to Irish citizenship by providing acceptable documentary evidence of this entitlement.

Entitlement to Irish citizenship is determined by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, under which Irish citizenship may be obtained by birth, by descent, or by naturalisation.

An individual born on the island of Ireland before 2005 is automatically an Irish citizen. For individuals born outside of Ireland, they may claim citizenship if they had at least one parent who was born in the island of Ireland before 2005.

Individuals born outside of Ireland can also claim citizenship through a parent who was not born in Ireland but was an Irish citizen at the time of the individual's birth, or through a grandparent born in Ireland. Individuals who wish to claim citizenship through these means must have his/her birth entered on the Foreign Births Register (FBR). Citizenship commences after inclusion on the FBR. Further details regarding the process can be consulted at the Passport Service's website.

There are no provisions for the spouse or partner of an Irish citizen to acquire Irish citizenship solely by virtue of marriage or civil partnership. Post nuptial citizenship was repealed with effect from 30 November 2005. There is no provision to apply for post nuptial citizenship retrospectively.

An individual may apply for Irish citizenship through naturalisation. Minimum residency terms must be satisfied before an individual is eligible for citizenship through naturalisation. The Department of Justice and Equality is responsible for citizenship matters, including applications for naturalisation.

Diplomatic Representation

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]

View answer

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]

View answer

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.

Brexit Issues

Questions (115)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

115. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the situation in the aftermath of Brexit can be best contained to achieve maximum benefit from an Irish perspective on the island of Ireland, north and south; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25576/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Extensive Brexit preparedness and contingency planning has been undertaken across Government. In particular, since December 2018, planning for a no deal Brexit has been prioritised. Addressing the challenges of a no deal Brexit would require responses at an EU level, by Government, and by businesses and affected sectors.

Throughout the Brexit process, Ireland and the EU have been at one in our determination to do all we can, deal or no deal, to protect the peace process and to avoid a hard border. The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland which was agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement underpins, in a dynamic way, continuing North-South cooperation and the all-island economy as well as recognising the Common Travel Area.

On 8 May the Irish and British governments entered into a Memorandum of Understanding reaffirming our joint commitment to the Common Travel Area, and to maintaining this longstanding reciprocal arrangement under which Irish and British citizens can live, work, study, and access healthcare, social security and public services in each other’s jurisdictions.

In general, managing a no deal Brexit would be an exercise in damage limitation, and without a Withdrawal Agreement, avoiding a hard border would become more complex and challenging. It would not be possible in such a scenario to maintain the current seamless arrangements between the EU and UK across a range of sectors, at the moment facilitated by our common EU membership.

EU Issues

Questions (116)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

116. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which positive steps continue to be taken to influence the future of Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25577/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

At the informal summit in Sibiu, Heads of State and Government discussed priorities for the next five years, with a view to adopting a new Strategic Agenda at the European Council on 20-21 June to guide the work of the Institutions.

In late 2017 the Minister of State for European Affairs and I joined the Taoiseach in launching a citizens' dialogue on the future of Europe. There was extensive engagement across the country last year and a narrative report on the citizens' dialogue process was published in October.

On foot of this report, my Department, together with the Department of the Taoiseach, held consultations with Departments across Government earlier this year. Following these discussions, Ireland's National Statement on the European Union was approved by the Cabinet in April. The National Statement is Ireland's contribution to the new Strategic Agenda. It has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and was the subject of statements in Dáil Eireann just before the Easter recess.

We continue to engage actively with Member States and with the EU Institutions to contribute to the strategic agenda to guide the priorities of the EU for the coming five years.

Irish Aid

Questions (117)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

117. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which Irish aid continues to find its intended target in the various trouble spots globally with particular reference to ensuring maximum beneficial effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25578/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland's new development policy, A Better World, sets out the clear commitment of the Government to reach the furthest behind first.

One of the core aspects of this policy is reducing humanitarian need, focused on providing vital humanitarian assistance to those in greatest need around the world. A recent study by the ODI, a leading development think-tank, highlighted Ireland as the most effective international donor in directing resources to those in greatest need.

Ireland works with a variety of partners in order to reach those in greatest humanitarian need around the world. We are committed to the multilateral system, and are one of the top ten donors to the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund - a global fund which ensures a rapid, coordinated response to the most significant global crises. We engage closely with the UN's Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance, and are currently chair of OCHA's Donor Support Group.

Ireland strongly supports the Red Cross Movement, and in 2018 concluded a three year MOU to provide core, unearmarked funding to the ICRC. This will allow the ICRC to conduct vital work in some of the most difficult and protracted crises around the world. In June Ireland became co-chair of ICRC's donor support group (a role shared with the ICRC itself) for a one year term.

Ireland also delivers humanitarian assistance through our NGO partners through the Humanitarian Programme Plan (HPP). Under this Plan, Ireland provides multi-annual funding to support partners’ responses in protracted and predictable crises.

Trade Promotion

Questions (118)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

118. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which new consulates, trade missions and or embassies continue to vigorously pursue trade with other jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25579/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Embassies and Consulates play a central role in advancing Ireland’s international trade as part of Team Ireland overseas. Embassies and Consulates around the world provide vital support for Ireland’s state enterprise agencies, including by supporting their strategic objectives and activities in overseas markets. The role of the Embassy in supporting Ireland’s trade objectives is particularly pertinent in markets with limited or no state agency presence.

Officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade across the Embassy network continuously engage in economic and public diplomacy, to advance Ireland’s prosperity and raise awareness of Ireland as a great place to live, study, work, visit and do business.

The Department’s officers overseas engage with host country Governments and multilateral institutions on a range of trade-related issues, including market access, regulatory compliance, visas, phyto-sanitary issues, and Double Taxation Agreements.

The Embassy network also supports Irish businesses in market, by providing contacts and information, organising Ministerial visits overseas and supporting trade missions, in partnership with the state agencies.

In June 2018, the Government launched the Global Ireland initiative, which aims to double the impact of Ireland’s global footprint by 2025. Global Ireland ’s targets include enhanced global engagement, the expansion of Ireland’s Embassy network and strengthening of Ireland’s state agency presence overseas. Each of these measures will increase Ireland’s international visibility, facilitate market diversification and intensification, and deepen bilateral relations in support of the Government’s economic and political objectives, including in the context of Brexit.

As part of Global Ireland, Ireland has recently opened Embassies in Wellington, Bogota, Santiago and Amman, as well as Consulates in Vancouver, Mumbai and Cardiff. Consulates are due to open later this year in Frankfurt and LA. In 2020, new Embassies will open in Kyiv, Manila and Rabat. The Irish Aid office in Monrovia has been upgraded to an Embassy.

These locations have been chosen based on a range of factors, including their potential to diversify our markets, to grow trade and investment with Ireland, and to enable Irish companies to better take advantage of new opportunities.

International Terrorism

Questions (119)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

119. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the EU and UN remain alert to the threat of Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram; the extent of the success of the international community in this regard over recent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25580/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I remain deeply concerned by the threat to peace and security represented by armed groups such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. The Government consistently condemns their brutal attacks on civilian populations, and particularly the targeting of women and girls. Communities across Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon live fearing that they will be Boko Haram's next targets, people in Somalia, Kenya and the wider east Africa region remain terrorised by Al-Shabaab.

Earlier this year the UN Security Council was briefed on joint efforts by Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria which have resulted in considerable progress in the fight against Boko Haram, including the liberation of hostages as well as territorial gains. However, the group has stepped up the use of women and girls as suicide bombings. The EU has pledged €50 million in support of the Multinational Joint Taskforce which promotes regional security in West African territories affected by Boko Haram.

Ireland is working with partners to implement a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of radicalisation and violence in both regions. The EU is engaged through political dialogue and through development and humanitarian assistance. Additionally, there are a number of EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions in East Africa, including EUCAP Somalia, EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta and EUTM Somalia.

The former Director of the Irish Coast Guard deployed in January of this year to Mogadishu to take up the position of Deputy Head of Mission at EUCAP Somalia. Ireland’s participation in these CSDP Missions allows us to contribute to international peace and security, to protect human rights, and to support conditions for sustainable development.

To assist the efforts against Al-Shabaan, the EU actively supports training and capacity building for maritime law enforcement, and provides considerable support to the UN-mandated AMISOM, the African Union-led peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Through a wide variety of programmes and partnerships, the EU also supports the strengthening of Somalia’s Government institutions.

Ireland works bilaterally, as an EU Member State, and with UN partners to promote peace and security in areas affected by armed groups. The Embassies of Ireland in Nairobi and Abuja actively monitor the situation on the ground, advise on humanitarian response and guide Ireland’s engagement in EU and UN forums on these matters.

In addition, Ireland works with partners on our collective humanitarian response. In 2018, Ireland provided €5.5 million in humanitarian support to the Somalia and €4.8 million to the Lake Chad region. As well as this direct bilateral aid, Ireland has also contributed significantly to humanitarian support through the multilateral system and via the EU. The European Union last year provided almost €89 million to Somalia and €90 million to the Lake Chad region. Ireland is the 7th largest donor to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, which last year allocated €15 million to Somalia and €43 million to the Lake Chad region. With humanitarian needs likely to remain acute throughout 2019, Irish funding will continue to target those most in need.

International Relations

Questions (120)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

120. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which the international community remains focused on the various flashpoints globally that are affected by war, starvation, ethnic cleansing and genocide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25581/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The number and complexity of humanitarian crises globally has increased in recent years, with the UN estimating that over 140 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and protection. Conflict is the most significant driver of this increased need.

Ireland prioritises the provision of needs based, principled humanitarian aid to high profile humanitarian crises such as Syria but also to "forgotten crises" which receive less attention such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Sudan. Over 90% of Ireland’s humanitarian funding in 2018 was directed in support of those affected by conflict.

Critical to maximising Ireland’s response is our strong and enduring commitment to effective multilateralism, particularly through our membership of the European Union and the United Nations. Ireland is a strong contributor not just to decisions regarding the international humanitarian response to crises but also to efforts to prevent conflict and to resolve conflict.

Ireland has a long tradition of contributing to UN and EU peace-support missions, including in some of the world’s most complex and intractable conflicts. Ireland has maintained a continuous presence in UN peace support operations since 1958, and has more than 570 personnel in United Nations mandated missions overseas. The Government is committed to participation in peace-keeping operations as a tangible contribution to the development of global peace and security. This commitment informs Ireland’s decision to seek election to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2021-22. If elected, membership of the Security Council would allow Ireland to play an important influencing role in the international response to the needs of the most vulnerable.

International Relations

Questions (121)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

121. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which international efforts to address issues in the Horn of Africa continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25582/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing a period of tremendous political change and transition. Ireland, as a member of the EU, supports EU efforts to strengthen engagement in the region in order to ensure that the various transitions underway are positive. Ireland also supports efforts, including through the EU, to support greater regional integration.

Since his appointment in April last year, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has pursued an ambitious programme of political, economic and social reform, on which he briefed the Taoiseach when they met in Addis Ababa in January. The Prime Minister's ambitious national reform process is complicated by the need to work through a backdrop of ethnic conflict and high levels of internal displacement.

Prime Minister Abiy led the process which resulted in an historic rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea in July 2018, ending decades of conflict.

The Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCISS) was signed by the main parties to the conflict on 12 September 2018. While the deadline for the establishment of a power-sharing Government has been pushed back by six months, the agreement marked a new departure. It is now critical that all the parties to the conflict in South Sudan, including the Government of President Salva Kiir, maintain their commitment to its effective implementation. Achieving lasting peace will require sustained effort and commitment as well as a genuinely inclusive approach to building the future South Sudan.

Despite Somalia’s recent progress in peace building and state building, volatility and risks remain high and the ongoing impasse between the Federal Government and Regional Presidents is a cause for concern. The threat from Al Shabaab in the region continues, with the terrorist attack against the Dusit Hotel in Nairobi earlier this year.

The 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 (TMC) had assumed control in Sudan. Negotiations between the TMC and protesters have stalled, with security forces carrying out violent attacks against protestors, resulting in significant loss of life.

These dynamics are accompanied by a continued competition from countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey, for influence and control in the Horn, particularly Somalia and Sudan.

The region is also affected by the challenges of irregular migration, forced displacement, trafficking in human beings, and smuggling of people. Taken together, the political trajectory of the region when combined with climatic shocks, severe drought, and conflict, demands a multifaceted political and economic response.

Ireland, together with its UN and EU partners, is strongly committed to and actively engaged in the Horn of Africa, through our political, development and humanitarian efforts. The EU engages in the region through political dialogue, its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions (EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta, EUCAP Somalia, and EUTM Somalia), and development and humanitarian cooperation. The former Director of the Irish Coast Guard deployed to Mogadishu to take up the position of Deputy Head of Mission at EUCAP Somalia in January. Ireland, through the EU, also supports the efforts of the UN peacekeeping mission AMISOM to stabilise Somalia. Through regional and bilateral programmes and the Trust Fund for Africa, the EU is providing over €3 billion to the Horn of Africa (2014-2020) which focuses on supporting economic opportunities for young people. Ireland has pledged €15 million to the Trust Fund for Africa.

Ireland supports regional efforts in the Horn of Africa to achieve stability, normalise relations and increase regional cooperation, including through regional organisations such as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). During his visit to Ethiopia in January 2019, the Taoiseach met with the acting Chairperson of the African Union to discuss regional issues.

During his visit to Ethiopia and Kenya in November 2017, the Tánaiste met representatives of IGAD and the African Union, and Ireland has since provided funding to IGAD to support negotiation, monitoring and evaluation of the South Sudan peace agreement and is planning to further increase engagement with the African Union in 2019. In addition, two Departmental officials are seconded to the EU mission in South Sudan, including one as Head of Mission.

The EU has a Special Representative to the Horn of Africa, Alex Rondos, whose mandate is to contribute to regional and international efforts to achieve lasting peace, security and development in the region. The Tánaiste discussed EU efforts in the region with EUSR Rondos when he visited Dublin in November 2018.

In response to the multiple humanitarian crises in the region, Ireland has provided €183 million in direct humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa since 2012. Over €30 million in Irish funding was provided in 2018, including to UN agencies and Irish NGOs to assist them in reaching the most vulnerable.

Ireland is also a contributor to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and has provided over €170 million in funding since 2006. This mechanism pools funds from multiple donors, enabling a flexible response to humanitarian crises based on objective assessments of need. This fund has allocated over $55 million to the Horn of Africa so far in 2019. With humanitarian needs likely to remain acute throughout 2019, Ireland remains committed to providing humanitarian assistance where it is needed most in the Horn of Africa, working with partners who can ensure that such assistance is delivered in a co-ordinated and effective manner.

EU Enlargement

Questions (122)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

122. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which he and his EU colleagues continue to positively influence the political situation in the western Balkans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25584/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland is a strong supporter of the enlargement of the European Union and the accession of the countries of the Western Balkans. Based on our own experience of EU membership, we believe it to be a transformative driver for stability, peace, and prosperity.

The European Commission published its Annual Enlargement Package on 29 May, which included progress reports on the six Western Balkans countries.

Both Montenegro and Serbia have been making steady progress in their negotiations with the EU and in implementing the reforms required to align with the acquis. The Republic of North Macedonia and Albania have both made sufficient progress and the Commission recommends the opening of negotiations with both countries. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo both have further reforms to implement if they wish to upgrade their status. We support the Commission's findings and recommendations and will be supporting opening negotiations with both Albania and North Macedonia.

While we firmly support the European perspective of the six Western Balkan countries, Ireland has been clear that all benchmarks and criteria, particularly those relating to Chapters 23 and 24 of the acquis, which deal with issues relating to the rule of law, must be met before accession can be agreed.

We are also clear that the EU cannot import instability; the six Western Balkan states must resolve all outstanding bilateral issues before they can become members of the EU. The Prespa Agreement between the Republic of North Macedonia and Greece is a step in the right direction and shows that even the most fraught bilateral disputes can be resolved with committed leadership.

Providing the countries of the Western Balkans with a credible membership perspective is essential. We therefore believe it is important that the candidate and potential candidate countries are supported and rewarded as they make progress on their respective European paths. For this reason, we support increasing the funding available to the Instrument for Pre-Accession Funding (IPA) in the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework of the European Union. Ireland also gives annual funding to the Regional Co-operation Council, which supports regional cooperation and connectivity across the Western Balkans. In addition, officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and our Embassies accredited to the region are working to strengthen our already warm bilateral relations with accession countries. To that end, officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade earlier this month held bilateral consultations with Albania, and we will continue to cultivate our bilateral relations and support the enlargement process within the institutions of the European Union.

Passport Applications Administration

Questions (123)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

123. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the turnaround times for passport express renewal first-time applications and online renewal applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25585/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Passport Service is currently in its peak season for passport demand with the vast majority of applications being received between February and August each year.

Renewal applications received through the Online Passport Renewal Service are being processed within the target turnaround time of ten working days plus postage time. A large proportion of applications submitted through this online channel are currently being processed in time frames shorter than the target turnaround time.

Renewal applications submitted through Passport Express are currently being processed within the target turnaround time of 15 working days plus postage time. First-time applications and applications from citizens who are applying to replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport submitted through Passport Express are being processed within the target turnaround time of 20 working days.