Civil Service Renewal Plan

Questions (96)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

96. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the way in which his Department provides collective leadership to the Civil Service renewal programme. [51616/19]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform has overall policy responsibility for the Civil Service Renewal Programme.

The Civil Service Management Board (CSMB) provides collective leadership of the Civil Service Renewal Programme.

The CSMB is chaired by the Secretary General to the Government and its membership is comprised of all Departmental Secretaries General and Heads of major Offices in the Civil Service.

The CSMB has met on 43 occasions since its establishment in October 2014.

Staff in the Social Policy and Public Service Reform Division of the Department of the Taoiseach provide secretarial support to the CSMB.

They work closely with the Civil Service Renewal Programme Management Office in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in this regard.

The Civil Service Renewal Programme Management Office co-ordinates and drives the Civil Service Renewal Programme, with regular progress reports provided to the CSMB.

Achievements to date include the establishment of OneLearning; implementation of a range of initiatives to improve gender balance across the civil service; Organisational Capability Reviews; a Common Governance Standard for the Civil Service; the Civil Service People Strategy; structured and transparent talent management programmes; the Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Awards; a Civil Service-wide mobility scheme for Clerical Officers and Executive Officers; and Civil Service Employee Engagement Surveys.

Detailed Progress Reports on the Civil Service Renewal Programme and CSMB Annual Reports and minutes of CSMB meetings are available on gov.ie.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Questions (97)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

97. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he or his officials have met political leaders from Northern Ireland regarding the Northern Ireland Assembly. [51617/19]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I met with Sinn Féin along with the Tánaiste on Tuesday, 26th November in Leinster House. Our discussions focussed on the political situation in Northern Ireland and on a time frame for post-election talks. I emphasised the Government’s full commitment to all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. I believe that there is a real potential window of opportunity very shortly to reach agreement between the parties on the restoration of the Good Friday Agreement Institutions.

As I reported to the House on 27 November, I last met DUP leader Arlene Foster at the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies in Enniskillen on Sunday, 10 November, when we both participated in the laying of wreaths at the cenotaph and attended a remembrance service in St. Macartin's Cathedral.

I spoke to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood by phone on 9th December 2019, when we discussed Brexit, the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive and the influence of Irish MPs in Westminster. I also recently met with Claire Hanna of the SDLP in Government Buildings.

In November, I wrote to the new UUP Leader Steve Aiken to congratulate him on his appointment as party leader.

I have not been in contact with the Alliance Party in recent weeks, although I spoke by phone with Naomi Long Alliance Party leader, on 8 October.

The Tánaiste is in regular contact with all the Northern Party Leaders and keeps me fully briefed on developments. There are also ongoing contacts at official level.

The Tánaiste and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have confirmed that the two Governments are ready to take talks in Northern Ireland forward again immediately following the UK general election.

We believe finding final agreement on the issues outstanding in these talks can be done in a short period of time. A substantial talks process has already taken place during the period 2017 through 2019. Notwithstanding this, a successful outcome in the weeks ahead will require political will and leadership by the parties.

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 restoration and effective operation of all of its institutions.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Questions (98)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

98. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the Cabinet committee that discusses agricultural matters; and when it last met. [51618/19]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Issues relevant to the agriculture sector can arise, as required, at a number of Cabinet Committees, including the Cabinet Committee on the Economy, which most recently met on Wednesday 4 September, the Cabinet Committee on Brexit, Foreign and European Affairs, which most recently met on Monday 9 December, and the Cabinet Committee on the Environment, which most recently met on Monday 2 December.

Departmental Advertising Expenditure

Questions (99)

Robert Troy

Question:

99. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach the expenses incurred by his Department to date in 2019 for the implementation of ongoing communications strategy initiatives that highlight schemes and programmes operated under the auspices of his Department including advertising and promotion on television, radio, newspapers and online in tabular form; and the level of expenditure for each such initiative. [52125/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Below is a table listing the figures requested by the Deputy.

2019

Item

Total Cost

Digital component

Budget 2019 - public information

1355.46

1355.46

Draft language Scheme - public consultation notices

624.2

Budget 2020 - public information

9901.5

9901.5

Vótáil 100 - video production and creative costs

17207.7

Nomination of President of the Circuit Court - adverts placed in national newspapers

3506.26

Video production and administration costs associated with launch of North-East Inner City Initiative

8302.50

Departmental Advertising Expenditure

Questions (100)

Robert Troy

Question:

100. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach the expenses incurred by his Department to date in 2019 for the commissioning, development, production, promotion and online sharing of a video which highlighted schemes and programmes operated by his Department in tabular form; if such videos have been commissioned for 2020; and if so, the estimated costs of each such video. [52142/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Below is a table listing the figures requested by the Deputy.

There are no video commissions currently planned for 2020 relating to schemes operated by my Department. However my Department will participate in all appropriate programmes in 2020.

2019

Item

Total Cost

Budget 2019 - public information

1355.460

Budget 2020 - public information

9901.50

Vótáil 100 - video production and creative costs

17207.70

Video production and administration costs associated with launch of North-East Inner City Initiative

8302.50

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (101)

Robert Troy

Question:

101. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach the associated costs incurred by his Department in hosting the special Cabinet meeting in Trim, County Meath, on 6 December 2019; and the breakdown of the costs including transport, accommodation, food, drink, information technology, public relations and media in tabular form. [52168/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The Cabinet meeting in Trim on 6th December last was held in the OPW Head Offices and therefore no rental/hire cost was incurred. There were no accommodation costs.

Travel, catering and incidental costs related to the holding of this meeting cannot be fully reported yet as no invoices and claims have been received and processed since the meeting.

Departmental Advertising Campaigns

Questions (102)

Robert Troy

Question:

102. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach the Government of Ireland-branded information initiatives to date in 2019 that carried out functions (details supplied) involving advertising and promotion on television, radio, newspapers and online in tabular form; the level of expenditure for each initiative; and if his officials or officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were involved in giving instructions and advice in promoting such initiatives. [52170/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

Below is a table listing the figures requested by the Deputy. Officials from my Department, including the Government Information Service, have a coordinating and supporting role for national, cross-Government communications.

2019

Item

Total Cost

Digital component

Budget 2019 - public information

1355.46

1355.46

Budget 2020 - public information

9901.5

9901.5

Vótáil 100 - video production and creative

17207.7

Video production and administration costs associated with launch of North-East Inner City Initiative

8302.50

Departmental Advertising Campaigns

Questions (103)

Robert Troy

Question:

103. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach the Government of Ireland-branded information initiatives planned in 2020 that will carry out functions (details supplied) involving advertising and promotion on television, radio, newspapers and online in tabular form; and the level of expenditure for each initiative [52171/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

There are no Government of Ireland branded information initiatives planned for 2020 in my Department. However my Department will participate in all appropriate initiatives as required, and in light of events such as, for example, developments on Brexit.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (104)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

104. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of agency staff hired and-or engaged in the past five years to date; the cost per year of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52033/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

It has not been possible in the time available to compile all of the necessary information requested by the Deputy. The information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Ministerial Travel

Questions (105)

Niall Collins

Question:

105. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the occasions on which he and each Minister used the Government jet from May 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the date of each trip; the location and purpose of each trip; the costs incurred in respect of the use of the aircraft for each trip in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52045/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The Ministerial Air Transport Service provides the Government and the President with an independent and flexible air transport service to assist in meeting national and international obligations.

Requests for the use of the service are made to the Taoiseach’s office where they are examined with regard to the need and purpose of travel. Once approved all operational matters are settled directly between the Minister in question and my Department.

Information in relation to Ministerial Air Transport flights is publically available via a link entitled "Routinely Published Information" on the Department of Defence website where it is updated on a monthly basis: www.gov.ie/en/organisation/department-of-defence/.

My Department does not hold details in relation to the purpose of other Minister's Ministerial Air Transport Service travel. However, in relation to my usage of the Ministerial Air Transport Service in my capacity as Minister with responsibility for Defence, the table below outlines the details of travel undertaken and the purpose of the travel in the period referred to by the Deputy.

Departure Date

Return Date

Ministerial Time on Board (Minutes)

Route

Department

Passengers

Purpose

21/12/2017

23/12/2017

735

Baldonnel - Naples - Beirut - Naples - Baldonnel

Taoiseach/ Defence

Taoiseach, MoS plus 5

Visit to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)

10/07/2018

12/07/2018

485

Baldonnel - Pristina - Sarajevo - Baldonnel

Defence

MoS plus 5

Visit to Irish Troops in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina

30/01/2019

30/01/2019

255

Baldonnel - Bucharest - Baldonnel

Defence

MoS plus 3

Informal Meeting of the EU Defence Ministers

Departmental Advertising Expenditure

Questions (106)

Robert Troy

Question:

106. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the expenses incurred by his Department to date in 2019 for the implementation of ongoing communications strategy initiatives that highlight schemes and programmes operated under the auspices of his Department including advertising and promotion on television, radio, newspapers and online in tabular form; and the level of expenditure for each such initiative. [52115/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

My Department carries out an annual Be Winter Ready campaign each winter. The table below sets out the full costs for the campaign for Winter 2019-2020. This is the only campaign or programme of this nature carried out by my Department.

Winter Ready Information Campaign Costs

Costs

Irish Translation of Be Winter Ready leaflets, Ministers speeches and Q&A's

€388.02

Promotional Mugs

€487.08

OEP Stand at Ploughing Championship

€2,709.37

HiViz waistcoats with Be Winter Ready logo

€3,965.78

Sign Language Interpreter for Be Winter Ready Campaign Launch

€276.75

Radio Advertisements (16 x 20secs slots over 4 days)

€27,897.98

Two page 'Be Winter Ready' article in the Irish Independent

€7,995.00

Distribution of leaflets with Irish Independent

€15,498.00

Total

€59,217.98

Departmental Advertising Expenditure

Questions (107)

Robert Troy

Question:

107. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the expenses incurred by his Department to date in 2019 for the commissioning, development, production, promotion and online sharing of a video that highlighted schemes and programmes operated by his Department in tabular form; if such videos have been commissioned for 2020; and if so, the estimated costs of each such video. [52132/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

My Department has not created any video content for any schemes or programmes during 2019 and, at present, none is planned for 2020.

EU Budgets

Questions (108)

Micheál Martin

Question:

108. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the severe cuts to defence and climate policy areas in view of the latest draft EU budget plans for 2021 to 2027 for the EU long-term budget; and if he has discussed same with his EU counterparts. [51849/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

This week’s European Council will discuss the MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework) on the basis of a revised proposal put forward by the Finnish Presidency. This is the most recent iteration of the draft proposal by successive Presidencies in these complex negotiations, which are likely to continue well into 2020. The Presidency has proposed an overall level of 1.07% of EU27 GNI for the next MFF period 2021-2027 and has maintained or slightly increased the allocations for Cohesion and CAP, which are priority areas for Ireland. To maintain CAP and Cohesion spending at the level proposed by the Commission, the Presidency has proposed adjustments to a range of other programmes, including in the defence area. I am pleased that the revised proposal confirms that at least 25% of the EU budget should be devoted to climate action. The MFF negotiations feature regularly on the agenda of my bilateral meetings with EU counterparts so that we can explain and understand our respective priorities.

Northern Ireland

Questions (109)

Micheál Martin

Question:

109. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the implementation of the St. Andrews and Fresh Start agreements. [51853/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Full and effective implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent Agreements, including the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, the 2014 Stormont House Agreement and the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement, is a key priority for the Government, as reflected in the Programme for a Partnership Government.

Progress in implementing the provisions of the Fresh Start and Stormont House Agreements and outstanding commitments from earlier Agreements are to be considered at Review Meetings, co-convened by the two Governments with the participation of the Executive. Unfortunately, due to the absence of the Executive since early 2017, it has not been possible to convene a Review Meeting since December 2016. Nevertheless, work on implementation has continued as appropriate in each jurisdiction, and to the extent possible in the absence of the Executive.

A key element of the Fresh Start Agreement relates to the ending of the legacy of paramilitarism. On 13 September 2016, the Irish and UK Governments signed an international agreement to establish the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) and it was subsequently given effect to by legislation in both jurisdictions. The IRC reports annually on progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland, and it published its second report on 4 November. This second IRC report is a sobering reminder of the continuing adverse impact that paramilitarism continues to have on society in Northern Ireland and brings an important and timely focus on what remains to be done to tackle it. The IRC has been active in pursuing its remit and has had a wide engagement with a range of relevant stakeholders, both North and South, and I commend the Commission for its valuable work so far and the efforts it has put into fulfilling its mandate.

The Fresh Start Agreement also provided for the establishment of the Joint Agency Task Force on cross-border crime. That Task Force was launched in Dublin in December 2015, and is bringing forward operational actions in the six priority areas that have been agreed as the focus of operations: Rural Crime; Immigration-related Crime; Excise Fraud; Drugs; Financial Crime; and Human Trafficking. These priorities are, of course, kept under review. There has been very considerable operational activity, with a variety of different operations undertaken across all of the priority areas since the establishment of the Task Force. The Joint Agency Task Force is an important example of the extensive and vital North-South co-operation that is undertaken between An Garda Síochána, the PSNI and other law enforcement agencies in both jurisdictions aimed at tackling crime and enhancing the safety of all communities on this island.

The Fresh Start Agreement affirmed the parties’ commitment to implementation of the Stormont House Agreement provisions for dealing with the past. Victims and survivors have had to wait for far too long for a suitable and effective system in Northern Ireland to deal with the legacy of the Troubles. I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with all of the political parties to support a way forward to implement the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework. The Government remains firmly committed to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework, and will continue to engage with the next British Government to see this finally achieved.

Under the Fresh Start Agreement, the Government made a number of financial commitments in support of the agreement, including €75m in respect of the construction of the A5 through Northern Ireland, exploring the development of the Ulster Canal and the Narrow Water Bridge, and funding of €2.5m to support the North West Development Fund. The latter commitment has been provided and the others are being progressed, overseen by a group of senior officials from the Government and the Executive as provided for under the Agreement.

A number of elements of the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreements have not yet been fully implemented, and the Government also continues to work to see this achieved. This includes the provision in the St Andrews Agreement in 2006 for an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland to be enacted by the British Government. Regrettably to date, there has been no agreement within the Executive to take forward what is now a devolved matter. In the successive discussions at Stormont that have been held since March 2017 to support the formation of a new Executive, the Government made consistently our support for an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland, as envisaged under the St Andrews Agreement.

I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland throughout these talks processes to encourage the parties to reach an accommodation. The multi-party inclusive talks process convened by the two Governments in May has included a specific working group to seek to reach agreement on rights, language and identity issues, which have proved intractable to date.

All five political parties have engaged constructively in the talks process over the last number of months and progress has been made across a range of important issues. However, some key outstanding issues remain and finding final agreement on these issues will require genuine and courageous dialogue and leadership by the party leaders in Northern Ireland.

I remain in regular and ongoing contact with Secretary of State Smith on how the two Governments can support the parties in reaching an agreement that will get all of the institutions of the Agreement up and running again. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I have confirmed that the two Governments are ready to take talks in Northern Ireland forward again immediately following the UK general election. It is envisaged that talks will commence as soon as possible after the UK election, potentially on 16 December. This of course depends to some extent on the outcome of the UK election.

People want the devolved power-sharing institutions up and running again to represent their interests and address issues of concern in Northern Ireland at present, including the implementation on an agreed basis of commitments from previous Agreements. 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 and the full and effective implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent Agreements.

Diplomatic Representation

Questions (110)

Niall Collins

Question:

110. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the meetings the special envoy to the United States of America has had since his appointment; the date and locations of meetings; the travel costs incurred as a consequence of their appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52019/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Taoiseach appointed Deputy John Deasy as Special Envoy to the United States Congress on the Undocumented Irish in June 2017. In this role, Deputy Deasy reports directly to the Department of An Taoiseach on the outcomes of his visits. He is supported, however, from a logistical perspective, by my staff in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Since 2017, Deputy Deasy has made 18 trips to the US in connection with his role as Special Envoy to the US Congress: four in 2017, ten in 2018 and four so far in 2019. He will again travel to Washington, D.C. the week beginning 9 December.

Deputy Deasy’s travel and subsistence expenses are covered from within the existing resources of my Department, as and when he undertakes activities in connection with his role as Special Envoy. The total costs for Deputy Deasy’s flights, accommodation and subsistence in 2017 were €13,784.25. The cost in 2018 was €30,295.90 and the cost, to date, in 2019 has been €10,729.76. Therefore the total costs incurred by Deputy Deasy to date in connection with his role as Special Envoy amount to € 54,809.91. This includes supporting some engagements with high level US contacts that have visited Ireland.

The focus of Deputy Deasy’s engagements in the US has been advocating on behalf of the Government and informing high-level US officials and politicians on the Government’s dual priority for seeking legal pathways for Irish immigration, such as through E3 visas, and on relief for the undocumented Irish. In this regard, Deputy Deasy meets with key contacts in the US Administration as well as political leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate. These meetings are therefore primarily in Washington D.C.