Arts Funding

Questions (92)

Neale Richmond

Question:

92. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media when the live events scheme will open for applications; if festivals that have been rescheduled will be eligible to apply for the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2032/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

An allocation of €50 million was made in Budget 2021 for the live performance sector.  It is intended that the rollout of the funding would include measures that will build on grant schemes launched under the July stimulus, such as the pilot "Live Performance Support Scheme" and the "Music Industry Stimulus Package". Officials in my Department have gained valuable insights from these schemes and will apply these learnings when allocating funding this year.   Engagement with stakeholders is ongoing and further details on guidelines and eligibility in relation to these schemes will be announced shortly. A scheme of capital grants will also operate in 2021 which will provide additional supports to the sector.

Sport Ireland

Questions (93)

Robert Troy

Question:

93. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media if she will appoint a golf representative to the board of Sport Ireland (details supplied). [2059/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

Sport Ireland is a State agency and all appointments to its board are made in accordance with the Government’s guidelines on appointments to State boards. Under the guidelines, the Public Appointments Service (PAS) is responsible for the process to select suitable candidates for consideration by the Minister for appointment to the board.

PAS will shortly be advertising a process for selection of candidates to fill three existing vacancies on the board of Sport Ireland.  Any person who might wish to be informed of the upcoming selection process by PAS should register their interest on the State Boards website www.stateboards.ie

The Deputy may be interested to know that on 16th October 2020, Minister of State Jack Chambers and I announced the appointment of two new members to the board of Sport Ireland, including the appointment of Mr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, who was the chairman of the Golfing Union of Ireland prior to the formation of Golf Ireland in 2019 as the new governing body for golf. These appointments followed from a PAS process which was completed in 2020.

Departmental Strategies

Questions (94)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

94. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media the main policy initiatives undertaken by her Department since 27 June 2020; and her main priorities for 2021. [2094/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Tourism)

Since the formation of the new Government in June 2020, my colleague Minister Jack Chambers and I have worked with stakeholders from across the Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media sectors to advance an ambitious policy, legislative and programme agenda.  This work has taken place against the challenges presented by COVID-19 both in terms of how we have been able to progress this agenda, as well as needing to respond to the very real difficulties which COVID presents to the sectors within my Ministerial remit.   

In terms of legislation, I have recently published the general scheme for the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill as well as working with Minister of State Chambers to move the Official Languages (amendment) Bill 2019 to Committee State in the Dáil.  These are two critical pieces of legislation which will safeguard our citizens, protect and enhance our media, as well as fostering the use of the Irish language within the public sector.  I will continue this important work in 2021. 

My Department has also, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, progressed a number of important policy initiatives.  We are currently finalising a Roadmap for the Creative Industries, in partnership with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and have significantly advanced the preparation of an Interim Action Plan for Sustainable Tourism, both of which will be published in 2021.  This latter document will also help advance our work in the preparation of a new Sustainable Tourism Plan, a key deliverable under the Programme for Government. Cross-Government, we are engaged in the development of the National Economic Plan and the Review of the National Development Plan which will also be published this year.  I have also established a Night-time Economy Taskforce to examine ways of enhancing experiences and supporting economic opportunities in our cities and towns which will report this year.  In September, I launched jointly with the Taoiseach, the Future of Media Commission to ensure that Irish society has a well functioning public service media.   My Department has also initiated a public consultation on the designation of major events for free to air broadcast to ensure that key cultural, sporting and other events may be enjoyed by all. 

As part of our COVID-19 response, I oversaw the reporting by the Tourism Recovery and Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforces.  These taskforces were established to look at the impact of COVID on these sectors and to map the recovery of the sectors post-pandemic.  I established an oversight group for the delivery of the Tourism Recovery Taskforce report and I am pleased that significant elements of that report have already been delivered with the balance due for delivery in the coming 24 months.  I am also looking at oversight structures for the Arts and Culture Taskforce Report to ensure that the sector is supported beyond the current pandemic and its resilience enhanced in the medium-term.

My tenure in 2020 saw a number of new programme initiatives including new rounds of the Sports Capital Programme and Sound and Vision with additional funding announced in December 2020.   My Department has, despite the challenge of COVID-19, also progressed the language planning process with a number of new language plans approved and the first Gaeltacht Service Town announced by Minister of State Chambers.  2020 also saw the first awards under the Cultural Capital scheme which will offer opportunities for people to engage with the arts and culture across the country, once it is safe to do so.

This year is an important year for the Decade of Centenaries commemorations programme and, despite the limitations COVID places on us, we continue to deliver on that programme.  I recently announced funding for local authorities which continue to play an important part in reflecting on our history as part of the Decade of Centenaries.

Internationally, my Department is engaged in implementing actions under Global Ireland, and I recently had the pleasure of announcing the appointment of new cultural officers to enhance our international footprint.  I continue to work as part of the North-South Ministerial Council and note the successful engagement at the last meeting of the Council on the tourism sector, which I chaired, and on the languages sector, chaired by my colleague Minister of State, Jack Chambers T.D..  The ongoing impact of Brexit remains an issue for the Department.  I continue to work as part of the wider Government engagement to mitigate against impacts across our sectors, not least in terms of the development of the National Economic Plan.

In addition to all of the above, my Department has put in place a number of policy initiatives, grant schemes and programmes to tackle the specific challenges faced by the arts, cultural, tourism and sports sectors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In 2021, I will continue to progress the policy initiatives established in 2020.  Also, my Department will continue to expand the delivery of our Creative Ireland programme including through the innovative Arts and Ageing initiative with IMMA announced late last year, the wider Creativity in Older People programme and the Creativity in Schools initiatives in partnership with the Department of Education. A further 164 schools will participate in the Creative Schools initiative in 2021.

Since June 2020, my department has delivered an unprecedented package of supports for those sectors as part of the July Stimulus package and as part of Budget 2021 which saw a package of €1.08bn agreed for my Department.  Over the past months, we have supported some areas worst affected, including tourism, live performances, helping artists to continue to create and we have funded our sporting bodies, helping ensure championships and games still went ahead.  Despite all the challenges, our sectors have also continued to make an important contribution to physical and mental well-being which has been so important in these difficult times. 

Further details on the work done to date, supports provided and planned are set out in the statement which Minister of State Chambers and I published on our Department’s website on 30th December.

This provides a mere snapshot of some of the work undertaken by my Department since my arrival in 2020 and is against a backdrop the myriad of challenges presented by COVID-19.  I am currently working with my officials to finalise a new Statement of Strategy for the Department which will align with the Programme for Government, the National Economic Plan and other key Government policies.  It will set the policy, programme and legislative direction for the Department for the coming three years.  I intend to publish the Statement of Strategy shortly.

Press Release

Parking Charges

Questions (95, 98)

Neale Richmond

Question:

95. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will ensure that street parking will be free for healthcare workers for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1983/21]

View answer

Neale Richmond

Question:

98. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will request local authorities to reintroduce free parking for healthcare workers during the current level 5 restrictions as was seen by Dublin City Council during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1982/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 98 together.

I wish in the first instance to acknowledge the great work of our healthcare workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us of the vital role they play in our health service. In addition, I wish to acknowledge the important role the local government sector has played throughout the duration of Covid-19.

Notwithstanding that, I have no function in the matter raised. The elected members of local authorities have direct responsibility in law for all reserved functions of the authority, including the setting of local charges. It would not be appropriate for me, therefore, to be prescriptive in respect of the steps local authorities may take to address issues that are presented to them by Covid-19.

Pyrite Remediation Programme

Questions (96)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

96. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the annual expenditure and the number of properties remediated annually under the pyrite resolution scheme in each of the years 2014 to 2020; and the budget allocation and anticipated number of properties to be remediated in 2021, in tabular form. [1944/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The table below shows the annual expenditure of the Pyrite Remediation Scheme and the associated number of dwellings remediated since 2014.  In addition, it contains the budget allocation and estimates for 2021.

Year      

Annual Expenditure €m     

Number of dwellings remediated under the Pyrite    Remediation Scheme     

2014

2.2

5

2015

10

148

2016

26.6

400

2017

25

392

2018

30

433

2019

32

512

2020 *

13

200 (estimate)

2021**

20

300 (estimate)

*€20m allocation was provided under Budget 2020 to cover the implementation of the pyrite remediation scheme. Due to Covid 19 restrictions, expenditure for 2020 was €13m and it was expected to complete in the region of 200 dwellings in the calendar year 2020. Final 2020 figures will be available shortly.

 **€20 million allocation for the pyrite remediation scheme has been provided under Budget 2021 and it is expected to complete in the region of 300 dwellings in the calendar year 2021, subject to Covid-19 restrictions affecting the works.

Building Regulations

Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 95.

Questions (97)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

97. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the cost to the State arising from the issue of defects and remediation at a location (details supplied); the breakdown of the cost of remediation of the apartments; the number of apartments remediated; the cost of emergency accommodation; the cost of legal fees incurred by Government and Dublin City Council; the other area of costs not included in this list; and the amount recouped by the State from the sale of the remediated apartments at the location. [1949/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The refurbishment of Priory Hall is being undertaken in a number of phases with 188 residential units and 4 Retail units in total being refurbished. The overall work scope relates to the extensive remediation of the residential and retail units, and extensive basement remediation including pyrite works.

While the full costs of the remediation have yet to be finalised Dublin City Council (DCC) has advised that the cost of the remediation works to date is €45m.  This includes contractors, consultants, surveys, site investigations etc.  DCC also advise that it has incurred €429,000 in legal fees and €2m in emergency accommodation and relocation costs.

In addition, the Council has also indicated that it has received €13.9m for the sale of 66 units to date.

Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 95.

Special Areas of Conservation

Questions (99)

Denis Naughten

Question:

99. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if he will review the designation of Lough Funshinagh, County Roscommon as a SAC in view of the fact that the former turlough is now effectively a continually rising lake with no outlet which has decimated the typical turlough flora of the site; the steps which the NPWS is taking to maintain the natural hydrological regime necessary to support the natural structure and functioning of the habitat in line with the site conservation objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2053/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I refer the Deputy to our earlier reply on this matter.

My Department has no immediate plans to re-survey Lough Funshinagh. However I am also considering correspondence received from Deputy Naughten in the past two days.

I understand that the Geological Survey of Ireland have been monitoring water levels on Lough Funshinagh since 2016, and that they have indicated that the levels are due to rainfall rather than blockage or change in the natural draining system. GSI have found that the rate of drainage during dry periods has been consistent since monitoring and the problem is that the drainage rate, in general, is  unusually slow for a turlough its size.

While most turloughs empty each summer, Funshinagh is slow to drain, typically every 4-5 years. It is evident that Funshinagh does not get a chance to ‘reset’ its flood pattern each year. As a consequence, Funshinagh has not drained since before the 2016 flood and is still impacted by this flood. This issue has been further exacerbated by the heavy rainfall in early 2020.  

With regard to the vegetation, I am advised that the typical species of turloughs include species that occur under water as well as those typical of the water’s edge. The SAC is also selected for the EU Habitats Directive Annex I habitat 'Rivers with muddy banks with Chenopodion rubri p.p. and Bidention p.p. vegetation (3270)'.    In 2004 this turlough held one of the largest areas of this habitat in the country.

Local Authority Housing

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 51

Questions (100)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

100. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the action taken with respect to the 20 local authority housing estates that were the subject of the IFHS collective complaint against the Irish State to the European Committee of Social Rights in from 2014; and his plans to address the Committee of Ministers' findings that the Irish State was in breach of Article 16 of the European Social Charter with respect to the substandard quality of accommodation for a substantial number of local authority tenants and the failure of the State to address these standards in a timely manner. [2058/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Government and my Department have given careful consideration to the report of the European Committee of Social Rights in respect of the IFHS collective complaint against the Irish State in 2014. In relation to concerns around the adequacy of certain local authority housing, my Department is committed to ensuring that tenants in social housing are provided with adequate housing that meets the standards most recently laid down in the Housing (Standards For Rented Houses) Regulations 2019.

The relevant details are being compiled and will be provided to the Deputy in accordance with Standing Orders.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 51
The regular management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, is a matter for each relevant local authority, and it is open to each authority to address maintenance or improvements to their housing stock from within their own resources. However, my Department also supports local authorities to improve their social housing stock through a range of programmes including regeneration, energy retrofitting and refurbishment works to vacant properties in order to return these to productive use as quickly as possible.
My Department currently supports a programme of large-scale regeneration projects in Cork, Limerick and Dublin and smaller projects in Tralee, Sligo and Dundalk. These projects seek to address the causes of disadvantage in these communities through a holistic programme of physical, social and economic regeneration. Projects being funded under the programme target the country’s most disadvantaged communities, including those defined by the most extreme social exclusion, unemployment and anti-social behaviour. Between 2016 and 2019, over 560 units were delivered under the National Regeneration Programme supported by funding in excess of €237 million from my Department. In 2020, funding of over €46 million was provided; the delivery statistics for the year under the programme are currently being validated.
The Energy Retrofitting Programme aims to improve energy efficiency and comfort levels in social homes and addresses issues around fuel poverty. An annualised breakdown of the properties retrofitted under the programme per local authority, is available on my Department's website at the following link:
https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/668c1-energy-efficiency-retrofitting-programme-expenditure-output/
My Department also funds refurbishment works to vacant properties in order to return these to productive use as quickly as possible under the Voids Programme as distinct from the local authorities own refurbishment works; between 2014 to 2019, exchequer investment of some €172.3 million has been provided to local authorities to refurbish / upgrade 12,495 social homes under this programme. Figures for 2020 can be viewed at the following link.
https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/78da0-voids-stimulus-programme-exceeds-target-in-bringing-2565-homes-back-into-social-housing-stock/
My Department also provides for the Disabled Persons Grant (DPG) scheme which provides funding for adaptations and extensions to existing social housing stock to meet specific needs of the local authority tenants with a 10% contribution required from the local authority. A total of €18 million was made available under the DPG scheme for 2020. Details of the funding provided by my Department to each local authority under the DPG scheme, from 2011 to 2020 are available at the following link:
https://www.housing.gov.ie/housing/grantsfinancial-assistance/disabled-persons-grants-and-improvement-works-lieu-schemes
In relation to the specific local authority housing estates identified in the IFHS collective complaint, these were submitted as a series of Case Studies and an update on each is provided in the attached Appendix.
My Department is actively engaging with the local authority sector to promote the preventative maintenance of local authority housing stock. In addition to funding provided by the local authorities themselves in respect of their own housing stock, my Department provides funding across a number of programmes as outlined above to support the local authority work to maintain and improve their social housing stock; in all cases, it is the local authorities that identify priorities. The continued work of local authorities in undertaking stock condition surveys, their responsive and planned maintenance programmes, as well as important on-going programmes such as the National Regeneration, Energy Retrofitting and Voids programmes continue to improve local authority housing stock and address the issues raised with the European Committee of Social Rights.

Departmental Strategies

Questions (101)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

101. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the main policy initiatives undertaken by his Department since 27 June 2020; and his main priorities for 2021. [2088/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

The Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, is the foundation for my Department's main policy initiatives.  The Department has commitments across 10 of the 12 Missions in the Programme.  The Department's website is a good source of information about activities and initiatives but by way of illustration, in addition to significant initiatives undertaken to manage the impact of COVID-19 and to prepare for Brexit, some of the key actions delivered since 27 June 2020 included:

- the extension of the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan;

- the extension of the Pyrite Remediation Scheme to include the administration area of Limerick;

- the development of a new Cost Rental Equity Loan;

- the delivery of the largest voids programme to date;

- an increased budget to support local authority homeless programmes and Covid-19 enhanced services;

- the commencement of work on the strategy for social housing delivery, including target setting, for the 2022-2025 period as part of the Department's lead role in the development of the new Housing for All strategy;

- the establishment, with the Department of Rural and Community Development, of a Town Centre First inter-Departmental Group (IDG) on the regeneration of towns and villages;

- increased funding for the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and the Historic Structures Fund; and 

- the prioritisation of the Marine Planning and Development Bill and the Land Development Agency Bill.

My Department's Statement of Strategy for the period 2021-2025 is currently being finalised.  Grounded in the Programme for Government commitments, but also drawing from other relevant over-arching plans such as the National Planning Framework and the Climate Action Plan, the Strategy will set out our strategic goals, objectives and actions for the period ahead.  Thought not an exhaustive list, key priorities for 2021 include:

- the Affordable Housing Bill;

- continued development of the 'Housing for All' initiative

- the continuation of social housing reform;

- a review of rent controls and rent affordability;

- examining the issue of defective housing;

- establishment of the Regulatory Authority for Approved Housing Bodies; 

- the planned review of the NPWS; 

- a new national heritage plan - Heritage Ireland 2030; 

- publication of a new draft River Basin Management Plan;

- legally establish the Land Development Agency as a commercial State body; 

- continued development of the National Marine Planning Framework; 

- further development of the national Flood Forecast Centre;

- the establishment of an Electoral Commission; and

- the development of legislation to allow the first directly elected mayor in Limerick to be elected.

Property Registration Authority

Questions (102)

Michael Ring

Question:

102. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the position regarding a dealing application by a person (details supplied); if the matter can be expedited as it is delaying the sale of a property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2099/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In relation to any specific cases with the Property Registration Authority (PRA), arrangements have been put in place to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas.  Further information in relation to the specific case referred to may be obtained by contacting the dedicated e-mail address in respect of the PRA at reps@prai.ie.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (103)

Neale Richmond

Question:

103. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the individual cost of each Get Brexit Ready communication campaign since they were introduced in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2036/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In 2020 the ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ public information campaign continued to run over TV, radio, print and social media. This campaign followed on from similar campaigns that ran in 2018 and 2019.

With the UK’s departure from the EU at the beginning of 2020 it was important to highlight the substantial and lasting changes for businesses that were to come into effect at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.  This Brexit Communications campaign focused on business “Brexit Readiness”, and encouraging those who trade with, or through, the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland), to take action and avail of information and resources available at gov.ie, to limit the disruption to their business.

Expenditure in 2020 on this public information campaign was €643,862.15.  While the costs of the 2020 campaign were borne by my Department, this is a whole of Government campaign that was prepared and executed in partnership with other Government Departments and Agencies, in particular, the Department of the Taoiseach. Additionally a number of other Government Departments and Agencies ran related and focused sectorial campaigns in their areas of responsibility which were funded directly by those Departments and Agencies.

Get Ireland Brexit Ready Campaign Costs 2018-2020

Year

Vendor

Campaign Activities

Costs

2018

TBWA, Fast Forward Productions

Creation of creative assets; video production

€            41,674.50

2019

PHD Media, TBWA, Irish Times

Creation of creative assets and print for business, public, national and regional campaigns; advertising: radio, TV, press, social, search, Aerpods; advertising in Brexit supplement; video production

€       1,706,503.76

2020

TBWA, PHD Media, Outsource Media, Irish Examiner, Kick Communications

Creation of creative assets; advertising: radio, TV, press, social media, search; outdoor advertising; video & radio production; advertising in Brexit supplement

 €          643,862.15

 

 

 

€      2,392,040.41

Human Rights Cases

Questions (104, 105, 108, 110)

Niall Collins

Question:

104. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1968/21]

View answer

Brendan Howlin

Question:

105. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); if this case has been raised with the Bahrain authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1969/21]

View answer

Thomas Pringle

Question:

108. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised the case of a person (details supplied) in Bahrain either multilaterally or bilaterally with Bahraini Government officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2023/21]

View answer

Joe O'Brien

Question:

110. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) who it is alleged has been detained without due process and tortured by the government of Bahrain; if he and his colleagues in the EU Foreign Affairs Council have raised this with Bahraini officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2039/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104, 105, 108 and 110 together.

The human rights situation in Bahrain remains a matter of serious concern. Although Bahrain has repeatedly stated its commitment to improving its human rights record and safeguarding human rights as enshrined in the Bahraini Constitution, we are concerned by ongoing instances of violations of fundamental freedoms, including violations of freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the targeting of human rights defenders.

I note with concern reports that the person in question has been tortured and their current whereabouts are unknown. Ireland urges all States to safeguard the human rights of prisoners and detainees as set out in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Mandela rules.

Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs have raised this case directly with the Bahraini authorities.

Respect for human rights is an integral part of Ireland’s foreign policy and we consistently seek to raise our concerns on human rights issues through the most appropriate and effective channels. Our active participation at the UN Human Rights Council is particularly important in that regard. Ireland has raised the human rights issues in Bahrain at the Human Rights Council in the form of national statements through support to EU Statements.

Ireland also engages on the issue of human rights in Bahrain through the EU. At the most recent informal EU-Bahrain Human Rights dialogue in November 2019, issues discussed included the right to a fair trial, prison conditions, and the overall human rights situation in the country. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, has also made representations to the Bahraini authorities on human rights issues, including the detention of human rights defenders as well as the conditions of their detention.

Ireland will continue to monitor developments in Bahrain, and to call on the Bahraini Government to deliver on its stated commitment to make progress in relation to human rights.

Human Trafficking

Questions (106)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

106. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a report entitled Trafficking from the Fringes of Europe to the Middle East published by human rights organisations; if so, the action he plans to take on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1971/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware of the report to which the Deputy refers. The trafficking of women, men, girls, and boys, is a grave violation of the human rights of the individuals concerned under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ireland supports all action to prevent trafficking. Countering trafficking is a priority for the EU, and the key elements of the EU’s multifaceted approach are set out in the 2017 Communication “Reporting on the follow-up to the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of trafficking in human beings and identifying further concrete actions” (COM/2017).   

The EU’s approach to the problem of trafficking is comprehensive, including prevention, assistance, support and protection for victims, disrupting the criminal business model and untangling the trafficking chain and intensifying coordination within and outside the EU. Each member state contributes to the EU’s overall approach through its own domestic legislation and actions. In Ireland, the Department of Justice leads on the issue of trafficking.

We also welcome measures taken by countries in the Middle East to prevent trafficking. All of the countries of the region, bar Iran, have ratified the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, and the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. We also welcome the enactment of domestic laws to prevent and punish trafficking, as well as the establishment of dedicated national committees to combat human trafficking and labour exploitation. Working both through the EU, and in a national capacity, Ireland will continue to fully support these efforts.

Rockall Island Ownership

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 104.

Questions (107)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

107. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the response to the actions of Scottish fishery protection vessels intercepting Irish vessels going to fish at Rockall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2022/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government is aware of contact between a Scottish marine patrol vessel and an Irish fishing vessel, the Northern Celt, near Rockall on 4 January. The Minister for Foreign Affairs met with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 7 January to discuss developments in relation to Rockall. The skipper of the Northern Celt also contacted my Department and a response has now issued to him, setting out the current position.

The Government is seeking to address the issues involved, reflecting the long-standing fisheries tradition in the area around Rockall, and has been in contact with the relevant Scottish and UK authorities on the matter. Taking account of the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which came into effect from 1 January 2021, contact may now also be required with the European Commission.

While such engagement continues, the Government has advised Irish vessels operating in the area around Rockall that there remains an increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities at present.

Ireland has never made any claims to Rockall, which is a small uninhabitable granite rock located approximately 160 nautical miles west of the Scottish islands of St. Kilda and some 230 nautical miles to the north-west of Donegal. Furthermore, Ireland has also never recognised British sovereignty claims over Rockall.

The consistent position of successive Irish Governments has been that Rockall, and similar rocks and skerries, should have no significance for establishing legal claims to continental shelf or an exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This is a position that Ireland advanced at the UN conference on the Law of the Sea, which took place from 1972 to 1982. This position is one that is fully reflected in the Convention adopted at the end of that Conference.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 104.

Foreign Policy

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 104.

Questions (109)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

109. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he accepts that the Organisation of American States submitted a false report on the recent election in Bolivia and that the report has been proven by subsequent events and by a number of independent observers to have been false; if he will request that the OAS outline the reason it produced a false report; if he will review Ireland's commitment to the OAS in view of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2024/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As the Deputy will be aware, Bolivia conducted a repeat round of general elections on 18 October 2020 after the previous elections of 20 October 2019 were annulled due to irregularities detected during the preliminary results transmission and the subsequent tabulation of results.

These irregularities raised suspicions and led to an audit conducted by the Organisation of American States (OAS) which indicated that intentional manipulations had taken place. Ireland supported EU statements which called for a new Electoral Court to be appointed that could offer a guarantee of transparent elections, and a return to constitutional normality so that the rule of law, democratic principles and civil rights in Bolivia would be respected. This position was supported at the time, among others, by the UN Secretary-General.

A fresh round of elections was initially scheduled for 3 May 2020 and subsequently postponed to 6 September 2020, until the repeat vote ultimately took place on 18 October 2020. These postponements were largely to due public health concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The EU sent an Election Expert Mission (EEM) to Bolivia to monitor the 2020 general elections. Ireland supported this Mission, whose mandate was to assess the conduct of the electoral process in accordance with Bolivia’s national and international commitments on democratic elections. The EEM found that the repeat general elections were credible and reflected the free will of the people and that the elections granted a much-needed legitimacy to a new Government and Legislative Assembly.

Luis Arce of the MAS party won the vote in the first round of elections and an EU statement, released on 23 October 2020, congratulated President Arce on his successful election. Likewise, the OAS also recognised the legitimacy of these subsequent elections and, in particular, noted the civic attitude demonstrated by the Bolivian people in exercising their right to vote and having done so despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ireland welcomes the peaceful transfer of power in Bolivia and is committed to working with President Arce and his Government. The President issued a letter of congratulations to President Arce on his election.

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 104.