Passport Services

Questions (132)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

132. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the estimated amount it would cost in a full year if two additional passport printing machines were purchased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33349/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Passport printing and the personalisation of each passport requires highly specialised machinery, auxiliary equipment and a temperature-controlled environment.

The Passport Service operates three passport printing machines, two of which are located in our main production facility in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin, and one located in the Passport Office on Mount Street, Dublin.  All applications are processed through the centralised Automated Passport Service (APS).  This means that all production facilities can print a passport irrespective of what channel the application was processed.  This printing system allows for flexibility between printing machines if any one machine has reached capacity.

The current three printing machines are meeting the Passport Service's printing demands and have additional capacity. Each Passport Printer has a printing capacity of 250 passports per hour and the printing requirements of the Passport Office in Cork are met by the machines in Balbriggan and Mount Street, without difficulty.

The purchase cost of a new passport printing machine alone is in excess of €1.7 million. This does not include the cost of security, maintenance, technical, fit-out, staffing and rental costs. Such auxiliary costs may vary considerably depending on the location where the machine would be housed and whether the machine would be added to an existing production site or a new production site.

Passport Applications Fees

Questions (133)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

133. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to introduce a reduced cost for renewing and obtaining a passport for senior citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33350/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Passport Service does not provide a reduced fee to any category of adult applicant for a passport, whether for the renewal of a passport or for a first-time application. A reduced fee is applied on applications for passports for minors in recognition of the fact that a minor’s passport is valid for only five years. Most adult passports will be issued for a period of ten years.

The Passport Service has reviewed the cost of the standard ten-year adult Irish passport and compared it to the cost of a similar passport in many other jurisdictions. I am satisfied that, at a cost of €80, which breaks down to €8 per year, the Irish passport fee compares favourably with services offered elsewhere. For example, an adult would have to pay €8.40 per year for a British passport, €8.60 per year for a French passport, €9.80 per year for an American passport and €18.40 per year for an Australian passport.

A decision to waive or reduce the application fee for any category of applicant would require careful consideration, given that any shortfall in revenue would have to be met by the taxpayer.

Passport Services

Questions (134)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

134. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the contract for the passport express service with An Post will be renewed when the current contract expires; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33351/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Passport Express service provides an option for citizens to submit their passport application through the network of more than 1,000 post offices across the State.  All types of Passport Application, both renewal and first-time applications, can be made via the Passport Express Service.

The Passport Service is committed to continue to offer a range of application channels, including an offline service for citizens who are not eligible or do not wish to use the Online Passport service. In parallel to the expansion of the online service to all application types, the Passport Service expects to issue a tender during 2020 for a nationwide network of agents to continue to provide such an offline service.

Passport Services

Questions (135)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

135. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason cash will no longer be accepted at the passport service public counters from 15 July 2019; if credit or debit card information presented on the application form will be accepted for means of payment without the card to hand at the counters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33604/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As of 15 July 2019, cash is no longer accepted at the Passport Service public counters in Dublin and Cork.  Payments can be made via Credit/Debit card, Postal order or Bank Draft.

This decision is in line with the National Payments Plan, which aims to increase the use of secure and efficient electronic payments methods and reduce reliance on cash. The removal of cash from the public office will serve to increase staff security and safety, to improve efficiencies, to simplify account and record management, to reduce the risk of fraud, loss or error and to reduce costs.

Cash will still be accepted as payment for passport applications submitted via the Passport Express channel at post offices across the country.

Credit /Debit card information presented on the passport application form can only be accepted for means of payment if the customer has the card to hand at the counter appointment. This is because the card needs to be inserted into the chip and pin payment system to be correctly processed and for payment to be accepted.

Passport Applications Data

Questions (136)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

136. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of first-time applicants from Great Britain and Northern Ireland who applied for an Irish passport in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33605/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The numbers of first-time passport applications received from applicants who were resident in Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the time of application for the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019 are detailed in the following table.

Year

First-time applications from Great Britain

First-time applications from Northern Ireland

2014

5,672

18,067

2015

6,011

20,325

2016

18,263  

29,923

2017

31,675

40,089

2018

22,386

40,226

2019*

31,099 

47,645 

*to 30 June 2019

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act, 2008, as amended. The Passports Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him or her. Entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by Irish law and in particular the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended.

Brexit Supports

Questions (137)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

137. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his European counterparts or representatives of EU member states have contacted his Department to discuss the way in which business in counties Cavan and Monaghan will be protected in the event of a no-deal Brexit; if so, if he has responded to these communications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33606/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Brexit remains a priority issue for this Government, and the Taoiseach, my Government colleagues and I take every opportunity to engage with EU partners and the UK to advance Ireland’s priorities.  Throughout the Brexit process there has been a strong understanding from our EU partners of the need to address these unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. Ireland and our EU partners are united in our determination to do all we can, deal or no deal, to protect our citizens, our businesses, including those in border counties, and our peace. This has been reflected in the number of EU27 heads of government, ministers, parliamentarians and officials, as well European officials such as Mr Michel Barnier, the EU chief Brexit negotiator, who have included visits to the border while in Ireland, reflecting and deepening this sense of understanding and solidarity.  Visits to all border counties, which stand to be particularly affected by Brexit, whatever form it takes, have been included in the itineraries.

The Government continues to work closely with the European Commission, and with our fellow EU Member States, to ensure that Ireland is as prepared as it can be for the UK's withdrawal from the EU. This includes ongoing work with the Commission to meet the shared twin objectives of protecting, on the one hand, the all-island economy and the gains of the peace process, and, on the other, the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland's place in it.

The Commission’s contingency action plan emphasises that it stands ready to engage with the Member States that will be most affected by a no-deal withdrawal and expressly states that “the Commission will support Ireland in finding solutions addressing the specific challenges of Irish businesses”. Recently the Commission announced a €50 million exceptional aid fund for the Irish beef sector to address price difficulties caused in part by the ongoing uncertainty in relation to Brexit.

Given the significant risk of a no-deal Brexit, no-deal planning has the highest priority across Government. The Government's Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update, published on 9 July, outlines the comprehensive body of work across Government to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. The Action Plan emphasises the need for stepped-up preparedness measures between now and 31 October, by exposed businesses in particular. As set out in the Action Plan, the Government has put in place a number of measures to advise and support businesses to prepare for new customs and other administrative requirements in a no-deal scenario. These measures include financial supports for businesses, and an intensified and individual business-focused engagement programme by Revenue designed to support and assist businesses in understanding the potential impact of Brexit and how to prepare for and mitigate the risks.

Despite the ongoing political uncertainty in the UK, Ireland and the EU remain firmly of the view that ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop mechanism aimed at avoiding a hard border, represents the best way to ensure an orderly Brexit and the protection of our all-island economy and the gains of the peace process. These priorities are of particular importance for the border counties, including Cavan and Monaghan. We are determined to work towards that outcome.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (138)

Jack Chambers

Question:

138. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the Brexit preparedness work undertaken by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34186/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government remains of the view that the best and only way to ensure an orderly Brexit is for the UK to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, as agreed by the UK Government and endorsed by the European Council. However, given the ongoing political uncertainty in the UK, it is our assessment that there is a significant risk of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. While we continue to plan for all scenarios, work on no-deal Brexit preparations has the highest priority across Government departments and State agencies. This work is coordinated by my Department and the Department of the Taoiseach.

A Secretaries General group, chaired by the Secretary General to the Government, meets weekly to oversee the ongoing work on no-deal Brexit preparations and contingency planning.  It is supported by an Assistant Secretaries Group, co-chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Taoiseach, and a range of other Brexit-related interdepartmental groups, including a Senior Officials Group on Legislation, which oversaw the development of the Brexit Omnibus Act and a range of secondary legislation.

Following its approval by the Government, an updated Brexit Contingency Action Plan was laid before the Oireachtas and published on Tuesday 9 July. It was also debated in the Dáil on Thursday 11 July and presented at the Brexit Stakeholder Forum on 10 July.  The Action Plan reflects the extensive work which has taken place at EU level and on a whole-of-Government basis to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, including by setting out the next steps to be taken in respect of each issue between now and 31 October.

The Action Plan also emphasises the need for businesses to step up their preparedness measures between now and 31 October. Government has put in place a number of measures to advise and support businesses to prepare for new customs and other administrative requirements in a no-deal scenario. These measures include financial supports for businesses, and an intensified, individual business-focused engagement programme by Revenue, designed to support and assist businesses in understanding the potential impact of Brexit and how to prepare for and mitigate the risks.

Departmental Projects

Questions (139)

Marc MacSharry

Question:

139. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of capital projects within the remit of his Department; the amount spent on each project to date; and the anticipated completion date. [34203/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The total capital allocation for my Department in 2019 across its two Votes - Vote 27: International Co-operation and Vote 28: Foreign Affairs and Trade - is €21 million. The corresponding 2018 capital allocation, in the first year of Project Ireland 2040/National Development Plan 2018-2027, was €13 million.

Capital investment in 2019, as was also the case in 2018, is focussed on (a) the cost of constructing and maintaining State properties overseas under Global Ireland 2025, (b) the ongoing Passport Reform Programme, (c) Ireland’s participation at EXPO 2020 and (d) the continuing investment in ICT to support the Department’s global ICT network.

The projected breakdown of the 2019 capital allocation of €21 million, across the various areas referred to above, is as follows:

-

2019

State properties overseas  

€8.5 million  

Passport Reform Programme  

€5.5 million  

EXPO 2020  

€4.0 million  

ICT

€3.0 million  

Total

€21 million

Insofar as the 2019 budgets for State properties overseas are concerned, details of the major current projects follow. The main building works at the Permanent Mission to the UN in New York were recently completed and it is anticipated that these will come in within the budget cost of €5.6 million. Preliminary site works are under way to facilitate the construction of a new Embassy/Ireland House in Tokyo. This project is currently under tender for design and management with construction tendering expected to be completed in 2020.  Tendering for the construction of new Chancery and Official Accommodation buildings in Abuja, Nigeria, is expected to take place in 2020. In 2018, the Department purchased a building adjacent to the Washington D.C. Chancery to facilitate its expansion. This project is under design and development.

Under the ongoing Passport Reform Programme, the main projects due for completion in 2019 will be the automated mailing project, the business process automation project, the bedding-in of the improvements to the online renewals service, ongoing improvement to customer systems, and the commencement of the Passport Integrated Processing System. The overall budget for the Passport Reform Programme of €21.4 million, for the period 2015-2021, is on target, in line with the business case.

An allocation of €4 million in 2019 is provided for building costs associated with Ireland’s participation in EXPO 2020 in Dubai.  Ireland’s national Pavilion is being designed by the Office of Public Works.  The total capital cost of the pavilion will be €5 million and is expected to come in on budget. EXPO 2020 is expected to attract some 25 million visitors.  In a competitive global environment, participation will promote increased awareness of Ireland in the UAE and other key markets as a place to do business and as a destination for FDI post-Brexit.  Ireland’s presence will also aim to support trade and tourism opportunities for Ireland in the UAE and wider Gulf region.

For 2019 there are also smaller planned capital projects in respect of ICT Services comprising infrastructure upgrades, roll-out of new business systems and improved communications technology. Provision is also being made for ICT services to new Missions under Global Ireland 2025.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (140)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

140. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps taken to protect Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34463/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Extensive Brexit preparedness and contingency planning has been undertaken across Government. The Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update, published on 9 July, reflects the extensive work which has taken place at EU level and on a whole-of-Government basis, including the Brexit Omnibus Act, to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.  It sets out the next steps to be taken between now and 31 October.

The Government has been very clear about our objectives since the UK decided to leave the EU, which include protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and the achievements of the Peace Process, including the avoidance of a hard border on the island.

Those objectives are delivered by the Withdrawal Agreement and, in its absence, there would be no easy solutions. The Government has consistently highlighted the risks that Brexit poses for Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement, and repeatedly underlined that a no-deal Brexit is in no one’s interests.

In respect of citizens, it is important to underline that, under any scenario, Irish citizens will continue to have EU citizenship wherever they reside. They will also continue to enjoy the right to live and work throughout the EU and the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of nationality.

There are certain EU programmes and benefits, notably EHIC and Erasmus+, where access for citizens in Northern Ireland would be affected in the absence of agreement on UK withdrawal.  The Government is working to ensure that people in Northern Ireland continue to enjoy access to EU rights, opportunities and benefits, with a particular commitment in these areas, into the future.

It is important to stress also that the Common Travel Area (CTA) and the associated rights and privileges will also be maintained in all circumstances. This allows Irish citizens and British citizens to access a range of similar rights in each other’s countries on a reciprocal basis, including access to healthcare and education. This is particularly important for the ways in which people live on the island of Ireland.

Together with UK Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the CTA in London on 8 May, reaffirming our commitment to maintaining that important arrangement.

In any scenario, the Government will also continue to engage with the UK Government to ensure that the vital citizenship and identity provisions of the Good Friday Agreement are upheld in all relevant policy areas.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (141)

Lisa Chambers

Question:

141. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to ensure there is no physical infrastructure at the Border while also protecting the integrity of the Single Market in the event of a no-deal Brexit; if he has been in discussions or has consulted with businesses, SMEs and exporters as to the location checks may potentially take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34464/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government has been very clear since the UK decided to leave the EU that we are committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the peace process, including protecting the all-island economy and avoiding the emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland.  I welcome the strong support of all parties for this approach. Those objectives are delivered by the Withdrawal Agreement. It, including the backstop, is the only solution currently on the table that delivers the outcomes that everyone, including the UK, wants to achieve.

In the absence of the Withdrawal Agreement, there are no easy solutions. As the recent Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update says, “there should be no illusion – a no deal Brexit would result in far-reaching change on the island of Ireland”.

The Government is working closely with the European Commission to meet the shared twin objectives of protecting the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it, and avoiding a hard border, including physical infrastructure. This continuing engagement is focused on delivering those shared objectives.

Ongoing engagement with stakeholders, including at sectorial level, is an important pillar of the Government’s domestic response.  At the most recent Brexit Stakeholders Forum, which I chaired on 10 July, I updated representatives of key sectors, including exporters and businesses of all sizes, on the ongoing work across Government, and at EU level, to mitigate against the worst effects of Brexit.

Departmental Advertising Expenditure

Questions (142)

Shane Cassells

Question:

142. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the expenditure by his Department on social media advertising and promotional material within the past year in tabular form. [34614/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

My Department engages in social media and online advertising where there is important information that needs to be brought to the attention of citizens.  Examples in this regard over the past year have included public information campaigns on the Online Passport Renewals Service and on the theme of ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’. Relevant details of expenditure are set out in Table 1 below.

My Department likewise uses promotional materials as means to help build awareness and inform citizens about important issues and/or particular events. These include Brexit-related and other public events held here in Ireland, engagement with school groups for educational purposes (e.g., on Ireland's international development policy) and outreach to foreign audiences by Ireland's Embassies and Consulates abroad. Relevant details of expenditure by my Department over the past year in this area are set out in Table 2 below. In the time available it has not proved possible to obtain a full breakdown of such expenditure as incurred directly by Embassies and Consulates.

Social Media and Online Advertising

In relation to Table 1 - Social Media and Online Advertising, the following considerations apply:

Government Brexit Update and ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’

Expenditure in this area has been undertaken to build awareness of the Government's Brexit Update email service and the ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ public information campaign which form part of the Government’s overall strategy to keep citizens fully informed and up to date on the implications and challenges of Brexit.

The Brexit Update email service is issuing on a regular basis via a commercial provider (MailChimp) and provides information on latest developments in the ongoing Brexit negotiations, on the latest available research publications and on engagement at Government level. It also highlights the range of business supports that are available through the various Government Departments and State agencies. This service has a global reach with 37.7% of the subscribers of this service coming from outside of Ireland.

The Government-wide ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ public information campaign is that which I and Ministers Humphreys and Creed launched together on 20 September.  This campaign has updated citizens, communities and businesses on an ongoing basis about Brexit preparedness and support measures that are available, as well as public workshop events as held over the past year.

Online Passport Renewals Service

In 2018 and 2019, my Department has concentrated on promoting the Online Passport Renewal Service as a fast and secure way for adults to renew their passports.  In Q4 2018, the service was expanded to include online renewal of children’s passports, a passport card for children and a wider cohort of adults eligible to renew online.  This expanded service means that all Irish citizens can now renew their passports online 24/7 from anywhere in the world.

Following on this expansion of the service, my Department ran a three-week public information campaign which included advertisements on social media platforms. The success of this campaign has led to a significant increase in online renewal applications in 2019.

St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is a unique opportunity to engage with the global Irish community and to promote Ireland’s economic and political interests overseas, with levels of publicity and media attention unmatched by the National Day of any other country.

This year’s programme had the largest number of countries ever visited for St. Patrick’s Day. The Taoiseach and I, along with 13 Ministers, 19 Ministers of State, the Attorney General, Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach visited 56 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas, and the Asia-Pacific region.  These programmes allowed us to promote trade, investment and tourism with Ireland, to increase visibility in new markets, and to promote our values and our influence in global institutions, notably in support of our campaign to become a member of the United Nations Security Council.  It also allowed us to deepen our connections with Irish people and friends of Ireland all over the world. Overall, Team Ireland overseas delivered a total of 1,796 events in support of Ireland’s interest over the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day period.

To coincide with and complement these activities, expenditure was incurred by my Department in relation to social media and online promotion of an accompanying St. Patrick’s Day video. In addition to Ireland, the video in question was also promoted in certain areas of the USA and continental Europe (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) to audiences with strong Irish diaspora connections and/or related potential disposition to Ireland as a tourism destination.

Global Ireland: Ireland’s Strategy for the US and Canada 2019-2025

‘Global Ireland’ is an all-of-Government programme which aims to double Ireland’s impact in the world by 2025. The programme was launched by the Taoiseach and myself and Ministers Humphreys, Madigan and McEntee in June 2018 and sets out Ireland’s ambitions in relation to how we trade, the bilateral and multilateral partnerships that we seek to build and our wider contribution to the world.

Global Ireland: Ireland's Strategy for the US and Canada 2019–2025 is Ireland's first whole-of-Government strategy for the US and Canada. Its aim is for Ireland to build strong, strategic political partnerships with the US and Canada and assume a lead role in building stronger transatlantic relations. To coincide with the programme of St. Patrick’s Day-related activities held there earlier this year, a small amount of expenditure was incurred by my Department in relation to the online promotion of a video that outlined the Strategy’s key objectives insofar as the US is concerned.  In addition to Ireland, the video in question was promoted in the various areas of the US where Irish diplomatic missions are located – viz., Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. – so as to support and facilitate Ireland’s ongoing engagement with key audiences in each case.

Diaspora Policy

The ‘Global Ireland’ strategy commits my Department to introducing a new diaspora policy in 2020.  This new policy will guide Ireland’s engagement and relationship with our diaspora: our emigrants, our citizens abroad, those of Irish heritage and those who feel an affinity with Ireland around the world. A series of public consultations began in May 2019 in order to ensure that members of the public can be engaged in the process of developing Ireland’s new diaspora policy. A small amount of expenditure was incurred by my Department in relation to promotion of these consultations via social media as outlined in Table 1 below.

‘A Better World’ International Development Policy and Simon Cumbers Media Fund

Ireland’s new international development policy ‘A Better World’ was launched in February 2019, following significant public consultations between July and September 2018. Both the launch of the policy and information about the public consultations were advertised on social media in order to engage members of the public with Ireland’s new international development policy.

The Simon Cumbers Media Fund promotes quality coverage of global development issues in the Irish media by supporting journalists to travel to the developing world to produce a report for print, broadcast and/or online channels. My Department’s support for the Fund enables media coverage that presents a balanced and realistic picture of the challenges facing communities in the developing world and of the progress that is being achieved. There are three funding rounds each year, including the annual student competition. These funding rounds are advertised on social media in order to ensure the information reaches a wide audience.

Ireland’s Campaign for Election to the UN Security Council

On 2 July 2018, the Taoiseach and I publicly launched Ireland’s campaign to secure a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in June 2020 for the 2021-2022 term. Ireland’s campaign is premised on three themes: Empathy, Partnership and Independence. My Department has since continued to promote public awareness of Ireland’s ongoing campaign through social media and online channels.

Table 1 - Social Media and Online Advertising

Amount

2018

 

UN Security Council Campaign (Jul '18)

€9,641.17

Global Ireland (Jul '18)

€5,837.80

Getting Ireland Brexit Ready (Oct-Nov '18)

€52,760.41

 

€68,239.38

2019

Online Passport Renewals (Jan '19)

€7,127.78

Getting Ireland Brexit Ready (Feb-Apr '19)

€108,787.64

St Patrick's Day / Global Ireland US-Canada Strategy (Mar '19)

€9,181.60

Simon Cumbers Media Fund & ‘A Better World’

€663.25

A New Diaspora Policy for Ireland

€777.03

 

€126,537.30

Promotional Materials

Table 2 - Promotional Materials relates to expenditure on information leaflets and certain low-value stationery and other branded items as distributed at ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’-related public information workshop events held over the past year, as well as at other events such as the National Ploughing Championships and the BT Young Scientists' Exhibition and in the context of Ireland's campaign for UN Security Council membership.

Such materials were also used in engaging with schools groups on Ireland’s new international development policy, ‘A Better World’, and in relation to Europe Day 2019, the Online Passport Renewals Service and my Department's TravelWise (consular support) mobile app. A further small amount of expenditure was incurred by my Department in support of pull-up banners for Embassies and Consulates abroad.

Table 2 - Promotional Materials

Amount

2018

 

Pull Up Banners

€2,100.97

GIBR Information Leaflets, Pull Up Banners, Tote Bags and Stationery

€16,421.73

Stationery & Branded Items

€18,523

UN Security Council Campaign Booklets and Branded Items

€38,879.34

TOTAL

€75,925.04

 

2019

Pull Up Banners

€4,484.82

GIBR Information Leaflets

€96,359.43

Stationery & Branded Items

€4,557.15

Online Passport Service Posters

€2,366.52

UN Security Council Campaign Booklets and Branded Items

€56,178.8

TOTAL

€163,946.72

Foreign Policy

Questions (143)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

143. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which he and the international community directly or indirectly continue to offer assistance to the most challenging situations globally in which conflict, lack of recognition for human rights, genocide and racial issues continue to result in a serious threat, with particular reference to women and children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34654/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The promotion and protection of human rights is a cornerstone of Ireland’s foreign policy.  Our work to advance human rights is founded in the values set out in ‘The Global Island: Ireland’s Foreign Policy for a Changing World’.  Ireland is committed to the universality, indivisibility and interrelatedness of all human rights, to accountability for human rights violations and abuses, and to the protection of those who are most vulnerable and marginalised. These commitments are reinforced by pledges in the recently launched policy for international development 'A Better World'.

Multilateralism is critical to the pursuit of Ireland’s policy on the promotion and protection of human rights globally. Our ability to shape the world according to our values is defined by our membership of the European Union, our participation in the United Nations, and our partnerships with like-minded countries and other actors.

My Department monitors the human rights situations in many locations throughout the world and, where warranted, action is taken bilaterally by making our concerns known to the Government in question, or through our strong and committed engagement in international fora. This includes our active participation in the Universal Periodic Review process.

Ireland regularly takes action on priority issues in collaboration with our EU partners under the umbrella of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015 - 2019. The Action Plan reaffirms the European Union's commitment to promote and protect human rights and to support democracy worldwide, an effort with which Ireland is fully aligned.

Additionally, Ireland regularly raises issues of concern at the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. This includes situations where there is a lack of recognition of human rights or where the human rights of vulnerable groups are endangered. Ireland regularly co-sponsors resolutions and makes statements in these arenas which call on the countries involved, and the international community, to take action to prevent, or to respond, to systemic violations of human rights in areas that are affected by conflict or other serious challenges.

Departmental Shareholdings

Questions (144)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

144. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Finance the way in which his Department has used the moneys the State received from the sale of its stake in a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31784/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The proceeds of the sale of the state's shareholding in Aer Lingus have been used to establish the Connectivity Fund, which is managed by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF). The Connectivity Fund is being invested on a commercial basis as a sub-portfolio of the ISIF, and consistent with the overall ISIF double bottom line mandate, i.e. investing for both commercial return and economic impact.

The ISIF has advised me that it has completed four investments under the Connectivity Fund, namely:

- A $28 million co-investment in Aqua Comms DAC, a company that has developed fibre optic cables linking the USA, Ireland (Killala, Mayo) and the UK.

- A €35 million investment as a strategic domestic partner for daa plc long-term bond issuance, supporting construction of a new runway at Dublin Airport.

- Provision of a long-term €14 million debt facility to finance a runway resurfacing project at Shannon Airport - a crucial regional and national infrastructure asset. This debt facility was signed in early 2017 and the runway resurfacing project has been completed on time and within budget.

- An €18 million Junior Debt facility to support the relocation of the Port of Cork from Tivoli to Ringaskiddy. The ISIF debt facility was provided alongside senior debt from Allied Irish Banks and the European Investment Bank and was structured to ensure certainty of funding for the Port Company. It also has tailored flexibility to meet the requirements of this nationally and regionally significant project.

These investments bring the total deployed under the Connectivity Fund to over €90 million. ISIF has informed me that there are a range of further pipeline connectivity-based investments on which it is currently working.

ISIF’s refocused strategy targets five priority themes, one of which is investment to support regional development. As such, the ISIF has advised that the Connectivity Fund will henceforth be focused on commercial investments that support improved regional connectivity.

Vehicle Registration

Questions (145, 184, 260, 262)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

145. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to change the regulations on the registration of motor vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31886/19]

View answer

Michael McGrath

Question:

184. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans regarding the worldwide harmonised light vehicle procedure test phase 2 with regard to VRT on vehicles; his further plans to widen the VRT bands for 2020 in order to avoid significant increases in the price of vehicles for consumers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32816/19]

View answer

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

260. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Finance his plans to address concerns that VRT will be increased in budget 2020; his views on the fact that the last major upheaval of VRT cost the motor industry tens of thousands of jobs and saw more than 150 long-standing family businesses close; his further views as to whether sudden taxation changes will cost jobs and slow down the drive to reduce emissions from transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34302/19]

View answer

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

262. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Finance if he will adjust the VRT bands in the forthcoming budget to take into account the differences between the old test and the new test; if he will equalise the VRT system for new and used vehicles and reach climate change goals in a planned, measured and realistic way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34327/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145, 184, 260 and 262 together.

It is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment, in advance of the Budget, on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Credit Unions

Questions (146, 200, 250)

Carol Nolan

Question:

146. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Finance if the increased industry funding levy on credit unions will be opposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33132/19]

View answer

Bobby Aylward

Question:

200. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Finance his policy on the financial industry funding levy; his views on the potential negative impact on the credit union sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33067/19]

View answer

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

250. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Finance the action he will take to not include credit unions in the increase to the Central Bank industry levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34009/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146, 200 and 250 together.

As the Deputies are aware, credit unions are regulated and supervised by the Registrar of Credit Unions at the Central Bank, who is the independent regulator for credit unions. Within his independent regulatory discretion, the Registrar acts to support the prudential soundness of individual credit unions, to maintain sector stability, and to protect the savings of credit union members.

Section 32D of the Central Bank Act 194, as amended, provides that the Central Bank may, with the approval of the Minister for Finance, make Regulations prescribing an annual Industry Funding Levy to be paid by regulated financial service providers to the Central Bank.

Since 2004 the amount of the Industry Funding Levy payable by each credit union has been capped at a rate of 0.01% of total assets.

Consultation Paper 95 ‘Joint Public Consultation Paper - Department of Finance and the Central Bank of Ireland - Funding the Cost of Financial Regulation’ (CP95) was published in 2015 and set out proposals to move from partial industry funding of financial regulation towards full industry funding, noting the proposal set out in an earlier consultation conducted by the Central Bank (CP61 ‘Consultation on Impact Based Levies and Other Levy Related Matters’) to move credit unions to fund 50% of the cost of regulating the credit union sector.

The Central Bank indicated, in its Funding Strategy and 2018 Guide to the Industry Funding Levy, that it intended to seek my approval to increase the proportion of financial regulation costs to be recovered from credit unions on a phased basis setting out an initial target of 50% to be reached by 2021.

In response to the Central Bank's request I recommended that credit union contributions should not increase beyond the 50% target until:

a. The levy trajectory has reached the planned 50% rate, at which time the impact on the viability of the sector will be better understood; and

b. A public consultation regarding increasing the levy rate for credit unions beyond 50% is undertaken, which would include a regulatory impact assessment of such a change on the sector.

In contrast to this, recovery rates in 2018 for all other industry categories ranged from 65% to 100%, and the Central Bank intends to increase all to 100% funding over the next number of years.

The Deputy might also wish to note that the Department of Finance, in collaboration with the Central Bank, has prepared a public consultation paper on potential changes to the Credit Institutions Resolution Fund Levy, which is expected to reduce materially from 2020. This consultation, which has been published on the Department of Finance website, is open to all persons and I would strongly encourage all stakeholders to submit feedback.

It is also important to note that as Minister for Finance I have reduced the Stabilisation Scheme Levy materially and that since 2017 no further levies have been charged by the Credit Union Restructuring Board (ReBo).

Carbon Tax Yield

Questions (147)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

147. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the expected yield in budget 2020 from increasing carbon taxes to €30, €40 and €50 per tonne, respectively; the way in which he plans to introduce incremental increases to bring the tax up to €80 per tonne by 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33190/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Carbon tax receipts in 2018 were €431 million based on a rate of €20 per tonne. Increasing the carbon tax to €30, €40 and €50 per tonne, respectively, would raise an additional €215 million, €430 million and €645 million, respectively, applying a static calculation.

As the Deputy will be aware, it is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment, in advance of the Budget, on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Tax Reliefs Costs

Questions (148)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

148. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Finance the estimated cost of restoring tax relief for trade union subscriptions. [33583/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

A review of the appropriate treatment for tax purposes of trade union subscriptions and professional body fees was carried out by my Department in 2016 and included in the 2016 report on tax expenditures published on Budget day 2016. The review may be found at the following link:

http://www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2017/Documents/Tax_Expenditures_Report%202016_final.pdf

The review concluded:

"... analysis of the scheme using the principles laid down by the Department’s Tax Expenditure Guidelines shows that it fails to reach the evaluation threshold to warrant introduction in this manner.

The reinstatement of this tax relief would have no justifiable policy rationale and does not express a defined policy objective. Given that individuals join trade unions largely for the well-known benefits of membership, and the potential value of the relief to an individual would equate to just over €1 per week, this scheme would have little to no incentive effect on the numbers choosing to join. There is no specific market failure that needs to be addressed by such a scheme, and it would consist largely of deadweight."

Given the conclusions of the review, I have no plans to reintroduce such a relief.

I am advised by Revenue that the cost and the numbers availing of the relief prior to its abolition are available at

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/costs-expenditures.aspx.

The following table sets out details of the cost of the relief in the seven years immediately prior to its end.

Year

Cost (€million)

No. of Claims

2004

10.7

248,300

2005

11.8

272,100

2006

19.2

294,300

2007

20.7

316,300

2008

26.4

341,900

2009

26.7

345,800

2010

26

337,500  

I am further advised by Revenue that these figures may not provide an accurate indicator of future costs of a new scheme and there is no other basis available to Revenue on which to estimate such costs.

Primary Medical Certificates Applications

Questions (149)

Bobby Aylward

Question:

149. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider reviewing the application process and qualifying criteria for the primary medical certificate as per recommendation of the Ombudsman (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33890/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, payment of a Fuel Grant, and an exemption from Motor Tax.

To qualify for the Scheme an applicant must be in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate. To qualify for a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must satisfy one of the following conditions:

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

- be without both hands or without both arms;

- be without one or both legs;

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

The Scheme represents a significant tax expenditure. Between the Vehicle Registration Tax and VAT foregone, and the fuel grant, the scheme cost €65m in each of 2016 and 2017, rising to €70m in 2018. This figure does not include the revenue foregone in respect of the relief from Motor Tax provided to members of the Scheme.

I understand and sympathise with any person who suffers from a serious physical disability and can’t access the scheme under the current criteria. However, given the scope and scale of the scheme, any possible changes to it can only be made after careful consideration, taking into account the existing and prospective cost of the scheme as well as the availability of other schemes which seek to help with the mobility of disabled persons, and the interaction between each of these schemes.

Accordingly, I have no plans to amend the qualifying medical criteria for the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme at this time.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (150)

Micheál Martin

Question:

150. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he has met with the Taoiseach to discuss tax strategy proposals outside and separately from Cabinet meetings since January 2019. [34407/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

As Minister for Finance I meet the Taoiseach both on a regular and an as-required basis and these meetings cover a range of relevant topics, including taxation issues.

As regards tax strategy, the Deputy will be aware that the Tax Strategy Group papers have just been published online. The Tax Strategy Group is in place since the early 1990s and is chaired by my Department with membership comprising senior officials and political advisers from a number of civil service departments and offices. Papers on various options for tax policy changes are prepared annually by officials. The Tax Strategy Group is not a decision-making body and the papers produced are simply a list of options and issues to be considered in the budgetary process.

Tax Strategy Group

Questions (151)

Marc MacSharry

Question:

151. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Finance his views on an aviation tax as proposed by the tax strategy group. [34438/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Climate Action and Tax paper presented to the Tax Strategy Group on 9th July last noted recent EU developments in relation to aviation taxes and stated that Ireland will engage constructively in any EU discussions on taxation in this sector.

Tax Collection

Questions (152)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

152. Deputy Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance the examination undertaken of the use of tax instruments to support investment by general practitioners, dentists and other professionals in primary care centres, technology and service developments. [34074/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

My Department has in place published guidelines for the evaluation of potential tax expenditures in October 2014 (http://budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2015/Documents/Tax_Expenditures_Oct14.pdf).  Drawing on economic evidence, these make clear that it is important that any policy proposal which involves tax expenditures should only occur in limited circumstances where there are demonstrable market failures and where a tax-based incentive is more efficient than a direct expenditure intervention.

The role for direct expenditure in the context of the Deputy’s question is a matter primarily for my colleague the Minister for Health.

An examination from a tax policy perspective of the issues mentioned by the Deputy in current circumstances has yet to be carried out by my Department.

Small and Medium Enterprises

Questions (153)

Martin Heydon

Question:

153. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Finance the primary legislation enacted since May 2016; and if the legislation in each case placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium-sized enterprises. [31482/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Please see below a list of primary legislation sponsored by me, enacted from May 2016 to 18 July 2019. Please note that this list does not include the legislation of bodies under the aegis of my Department.  Nor does it include the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Act 2019 (‘the Brexit Omnibus Act’), of which I was responsible for certain parts, as I understand that information concerning that Act will be provided to the Deputy by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as the Act was sponsored by its Minister.  Nor does it include the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2018 or other legislation which was sponsored by Private Members.

It is not possible for me to rule out, in relation to any of this legislation, whether it placed an additional regulatory burden on small and medium enterprises (‘SMEs’). The nature of legislation, secondary or primary, is to impose legal and/or regulatory obligations on people. Some of those obligations are likely to fall on SMEs, at least tangentially. I cannot rule out in respect of any of this legislation the possibility of the placement of additional regulatory burdens on SMEs. Having said that, I am always mindful of the effect of regulatory burdens, but inevitably whenever legal obligations are affected by legislation this will likely lead to the imposition of some regulatory burdens.

List of Acts sponsored by the Minister for Finance enacted from May 2016 to 18 July 2018

No.

Title of the Act

Date signed

1.

Finance (Certain European Union and Intergovernmental Obligations) Act 2016

26 Oct 2016

2.

Finance Act 2016

25 Dec 2016

3.

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017

26 July 2017

4.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Act 2017

26 July 2017

5.

Finance Act 2017

25 Dec 2017

6.

Insurance (Amendment) Act 2018

24 July 2018

7.

Markets in Financial Instruments Act 2018

29 Oct 2018

8.

Home Building Finance Ireland Act 2018

3 Dec 2018

9.

Finance Act 2018

9 Dec 2018

10.

Finance (African Development (Bank and Fund) and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018

26 Dec 2018

11.

Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018

27 Dec 2018

12.

National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Act 2019

26 June 2019

Regulatory Impact Assessment Data

Questions (154)

Pat Deering

Question:

154. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Finance the secondary legislation enacted since 1 January 2018; and if the legislation in each case placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium-sized enterprises. [31490/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Please see below a list of secondary legislation made by me, enacted from 1 January 2018 to 18 July 2019. Please note that I cannot rule out the possibility that the list is missing very recent legislation which is currently being made or will be finalised in the immediate future. For completeness, however, I have included in the list new secondary legislation which has not yet been given an S.I. number. Please also note that the list does not include legislation made by bodies under the aegis of my Department. In the time available, it has not been practicable to definitively rule out any possibility of error or omission in the list, considering the volume of secondary legislation.

It is not possible for me to specify in relation to each specific piece of legislation whether it placed an additional regulatory burdens on small and medium enterprises (‘SMEs’). The nature of legislation, secondary or primary, is to impose legal and/or regulatory obligations on people. Some of those obligations are likely to fall on SMEs, at least tangentially. I cannot rule out in respect of this legislation the possibility of the imposition of additional regulatory burdens on SMEs. I am always mindful of the effect of regulatory burdens on people, but inevitably whenever legal obligations are affected by legislation this will likely lead to the imposition of some regulatory burdens.

Secondary Legislatoin

Tax Exemptions

Questions (155)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

155. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Finance if an exemption for 2018 will be made under section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for a person (details supplied). [31512/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 empowers Revenue to make a determination that certain artistic works are original and creative works generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit.  Where such a determination is made, the individual is entitled to an exemption from income tax on up to €50,000 of the profits or gains from the publication, production or sale of such works.  Section 195(3)(b) provides that the exemption cannot apply for any year prior to the year in which the individual concerned makes a claim.

I am further advised by Revenue that the named individual first contacted Revenue seeking an exemption under section 195 on 25 January 2019.  Revenue advised the individual on 5 February 2019 that his claim had been successful.  As the individual’s claim was made in 2019, the exemption cannot apply for 2018.

Banking Sector

Questions (156, 157, 158, 159)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

156. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of L-QIAIFs active here; and the percentage of such which comprise total AIFs and QIAIFs in tabular form. [31523/19]

View answer

Pearse Doherty

Question:

157. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the net asset value of all L-QIAIFs domiciled here; and the percentage this constitutes of total net asset value of AIFs and QIAIFs in tabular form. [31524/19]

View answer

Pearse Doherty

Question:

158. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the amount of lending issued by L-QIAIFs here; and the sectors to which this lending is committed in tabular form. [31525/19]

View answer

Pearse Doherty

Question:

159. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the amount of L-QIAIF activity in the property and real estate sector; and the lending and investments of L-QIAIFs in the sector. [31526/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 to 159, inclusive, together.

Loan-Originating Qualifying Investor Alternative Investment Funds (L-QIAIFs) refer to a category of investment fund authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI). Investment in such funds is restricted to qualified investors and the manager is authorised by the CBI in accordance with the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD). The fund is also subject to the CBI's Alternative Investment Fund Rulebook.

The CBI is the competent authority for Loan-Origination Qualified Alternative Investment Funds (L-QIAFs) in Ireland and has supplied information below.

In relation to Questions Nos. 158 and 159, 31523/19 and 31524/19, the CBI has supplied the following tabular information:

Fund Category

No. of Funds

NAV

AIFs

2,864

€678.3bn

QIAIFs

2,548

€633.3bn

Loan Origination QIAIFs

51

€5.9bn

Loan Origination QIAIFs as a % of AIFs

1.78%

0.86%

Loan Origination QIAIFs as a % of QIAIFs

2.00%

0.92%

In relation to Questions Nos. 158 and 159, reference Nos. 31525/19 and 31526/19, respectively, relating to lending activities of L-QIAIFs, the CBI has informed my officials that as of March 2019 56% of loan or loan participating instruments in L-QIAIFs are Irish-based.  The CBI has also informed my officials that the CBI does not collect information on the L-QIAIF authorised by it in a manner that would enable a breakdown of such funds lending in the property and real estate sector or the amount of lending such funds undertake in Ireland or to which sectors.