Energy Efficiency

Questions (244)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

244. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when the funding for phase 2 of the energy efficiency retrofitting programme will be released to Dublin City Council; the amount requested by Dublin City Council; and the amount that will be made available to Dublin City Council. [2809/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department has provided funding support to local authorities under the Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme since 2013 and this will continue in 2021.

Budget 2021 has provided significantly increased funding support of €65 million for a newly revised Energy Efficiency Programme. The new programme has been designed to ensure delivery on the Programme for Government commitment in respect of energy retrofits. The new programme will see a significant upscaling on what has been completed by local authorities in previous years. Works eligible under the new programme include attic and cavity wall insulation or external wall insulation where required, windows and doors replacement, heat pump installation and all associated works. The 2021 programme will see 2,400 local authority homes targeted for upgrade to a Building Energy Rating (BER) of B2 or cost optimal equivalent level.

Allocations will issue shortly to individual local authorities, including Dublin City Council so as to ensure delivery on the energy efficiency upgrade of 2,400 local authority homes in 2021.

Constituency Commission

Questions (245)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

245. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the anticipated timelines for the establishment and reporting of the Dáil constituency commission, the European elections constituency commission and the local elections constituency commission, given that, with the Statistics (Census of Population) Order 2020, the next census will take place in April 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2814/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Reviews of Dáil and European Parliament constituencies are linked to the publication of Census of Population data. In effect, the publication of preliminary census results triggers the establishment of a Constituency Commission under section 5(1) of the Electoral Act 1997 with the Commission required to present its report on Dáil and European Parliament constituencies to the chairman of the Dáil within three months of publication of final census results. The next review of Dáil and European Parliament constituencies will commence following the publication of preliminary census results following the Census of Population proposed for April 2022. The timing for the publication of both preliminary census results and final census results are a matter for the Central Statistics Office but typically take place within 3 months and 12 months respectively of the holding of the census.

Census data also informs the preparation of terms of reference for any review of local electoral areas to be undertaken and provides a basis for the work of any Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee(s) which may be established by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage from time to time. Section 23 of the Local Government Act 2001 empowers the Minister to divide a local authority area into local electoral areas and to amend those areas. However, in advance of deciding to make an order under section 23 of the Act, the Minister must, in accordance with section 32(2) of the Local Government Act 1991, request a boundary committee to make a report having regard to such matters as may be specified by the Minister. The Minister must publish the report of the boundary committee and must have regard to the report of that committee when deciding to make an order in relation to the revision of local electoral area boundaries. Ultimately, the timeframe for the making of the report will be determined by the boundary committee's terms of reference.

On 15 December 2020, the Government approved the drafting of an Electoral Reform Bill and the circulation of the Bill's general scheme to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage for pre-legislative consideration. The general scheme addresses a number of commitments in the Programme for Government - Our Shared Future relating to the establishment of a statutory Electoral Commission, the modernisation of the electoral registration process and the regulation of online political advertising during election periods. It also includes proposals aimed at assisting with the holding of electoral events where Covid-19 restrictions are in place. The general scheme was circulated to the Joint Oireachtas Committee last week and has been published on my Department's website at www.gov.ie/en/publication/34cf6-general-scheme-of-the-electoral-reform-bill-2020/.

The Electoral Commission will be independent of Government and will report directly to the Oireachtas. Following its establishment, which is envisaged by the end of this year, it will take on several existing statutory electoral functions from the outset, including the work currently undertaken by Constituency Commissions and Local Electoral Area Boundary Committees.

Natural Heritage Areas

Questions (246)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

246. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of proposed natural heritage areas; when they were initially registered for inclusion; when he plans to designate them as natural heritage areas; if they have already been assessed or monitored since becoming natural heritage areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2894/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

There are 632 proposed natural heritage areas. While a review of these sites is foreseen, it is not on my immediate priority framework. The current focus of my Department is on fulfilling Ireland’s obligations under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives and the designation of Natura 2000 sites, i.e. the 600 special areas of conservation and special protection areas. The proposed natural heritage areas were advertised to the public in 1994-1995.

Proposed natural heritage area sites are not subject to the protection provisions of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. However, they may be recognised in local authority development plans.

Environmental Protection Enforcement

Questions (247)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

247. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the steps being taken to meet the 30% land and sea protections announced as part of the high ambition coalition, HAC, initiative; if the commitment will be legislated for; when the commitment will be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2895/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department, through its National Parks and Wildlife Service, is the lead authority for development and coordination of biodiversity policy in the State. This includes fulfilling Ireland’s obligations under a range of international agreements and conventions on nature. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), underpins much of global biodiversity policy and its 15th Conference of the Parties is due to take place later this year, having been delayed due to the Covid pandemic from its original dates in November 2020.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, launched by the European Commission in May 2020, proposes that by 2030, member states legally protect at least 30% of the EU’s land and marine areas, and that 10% (or one-third of the protected areas) would be strictly protected. This is an overall EU target and discussions around how this will be achieved are still ongoing; fair and transparent burden-sharing among member states is a crucial consideration in discussions around implementation of the Strategy at national level. Nonetheless, the EU Strategy will form the basis of the positions to be adopted by the EU and its Member States at COP15.

The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People is an intergovernmental group co-chaired by Costa Rica and France, and the United Kingdom as Ocean co-chair to mobilise political will for nature and biodiversity. Membership of the HAC currently includes 50 governments across Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and the Americas. This includes Ireland following my announcement of our intention to support the HAC last Monday, 11 January. The aim of the Coalition is to help achieve an ambitious global deal for nature and people, at COP15, that can halt the accelerating loss of biodiversity and protect vital ecosystems that safeguard human health and economic security. A key element of such a deal is to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and ocean by 2030, known as the "30x30 target".

The increased percentage of designated land for protected areas is crucial to the EU Biodiversity Strategy but will require significant buy-in across the EU from agriculture and landowners. This will be one of the key challenges of implementing the Strategy. The Commission and member states will agree on criteria and guidance for identifying and designating additional areas, as well as further information on definition of protection, later this year. Member states will be obliged to demonstrate significant progress in designating the required new protected areas and integrating ecological corridors by end 2023; on this basis the Commission will assess in 2024 whether new EU legislation or other further actions should be proposed.

Ireland is at the early stages of developing a network of marine protected areas (that will include SACs and SPAs designated under the Nature Directives). In addition, NPWS and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine are cooperating on exploring the overlaps of the Biodiversity Strategy with the EU "Farm to Fork" policy in agriculture; and more generally, examining the resources and funding which will be needed for restoration, and with regard to implications for farming, forestry, fisheries and the commercial activities associated with implementation of the Strategy.

The EU Strategy also calls for the updating of National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans (NBAP) in 2021. Ireland has carried out an interim review of its current NBAP and the process of developing a new NBAP will get underway this year. The outcome of the COP15 and the agreement of a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, along with the EU Biodiversity Strategy, and the existing national policy and legislative framework for biodiversity and nature, will underpin the objectives, targets and actions of an ambitious and transformative National Biodiversity Action Plan to carry on the important work that is already underway across government in implementing the current NBAP which runs from 2017 to 2021.

National Parks

Questions (248)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

248. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his plans in place to develop management plans for the six national parks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2896/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

My position has not changed since the Deputy asked the question in July.

Ireland's 6 National Parks are managed as Category II National Parks under the criteria set out by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Accordingly, all National Parks in Ireland are fully owned and managed by the State.

In 2017 the partnership between the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department and Fáilte Ireland was created to achieve the shared goal of further developing quality experiences at our National Parks and Nature Reserves. One major output from the Department's Strategic Partnership with Fáilte Ireland, was a Masterplan for the six National Parks and Nature Reserves. This provides a high level and integrated blueprint for the NPWS to invest in and better manage the Parks for conservation, biodiversity and visitor alike. In effect, it enables the aligning of conservation objectives of the Parks with increasing visitor appeal and numbers. The Masterplan guides the phased development of these enhanced visitor facilities and improved visitor experiences based on research into international best practice. The Department intends to produce visitor and management plans for its National Parks on an on-going basis, the availability of resources permitting.

As part of my Department’s continuing commitment and contribution to protecting our heritage and recreation product, it has been exploring ways to optimise the sustainable potential of heritage sites under our control in a way that is compatible with conservation objectives. In this context, it should be noted that my Department negotiated the extension of Wicklow Mountains National Park by purchasing almost 4,900 acres of Dublin Uplands at Glenasmole in 2016 at a cost of €800,000. In 2017 the entire Wild Nephin area was consolidated into the ownership of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This creates a State – owned re-wilding project of over 11,000 hectares and aims to provide increased nature conservation benefits and biodiversity as well as enhanced recreational and social benefits through the ‘re-wilding’ of the forest which adjoins the National Park.

In 2019 over €5m from the Rural Regeneration fund was announced for the Parks and Reserves providing infrastructure that allows sustainable access to them. Most of these projects have been initiated and some of those recently concluded include the purchase of Electric Buses for visitors of Glenveagh National Park, improved trail networks in the Sliabh Blooms and enhanced trails in Dromore and Derrycrag Nature Reserves. In the last 5 years to date over €16.3m in current funding and nearly €7.8m in capital funding has been spent in our National Parks and Reserves, in areas including invasive species control and infrastructure improvement.

Given the resources available for investment within our National Parks and Nature Reserves, I am of course mindful of the need to focus on the core responsibilities relating to the management of the existing Parks and Reserves lands; the Department focuses on conservation objectives for Natura 2000 sites. Ireland's 3rd National Biodiversity Plan runs from 2017 to 2021 and captures the objectives, targets and actions for biodiversity to be undertaken by a wide range of stakeholders in government, civil society and private sectors to achieve Ireland’s Vision for Biodiversity not just in our own National Parks but countrywide.

Hare Coursing

Questions (249)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

249. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if a club (details supplied) released all hares captured for the purposes of coursing as requested by him in October 2020; if the club currently has captured hares; the number of hares under the control of the club; if the club is required to release them due to the limitations on coursing under Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2897/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

My Department understands from the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) that all hares which had been held in captivity by clubs affiliated to the ICC were released back into the wild in November 2020 on foot of a request to the ICC to do so. I understand that some hares netted in late December may remain in captivity. The National Parks and Wildlife Service are currently monitoring that situation, more especially with due regard to the on-going legal action by the ICC, and I am, in that respect, unable to comment further at this juncture. However, I am closely monitoring the situation and will provide an update on the matter when appropriate.

Wastewater Treatment

Questions (250)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

250. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the funding required to build the Arklow wastewater treatment plant; the funding sources identified by the Government to enable the build; the funding that has already been allocated to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2899/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. Issues in relation to the costs of the project referred to in the question and the allocation of funding towards the project are matter for Irish Water.

As part of Budget 2021, I secured funding of over €1.4 billion to support water services. This includes €1.3 billion in respect of domestic water services provision by Irish Water. This overall investment will deliver significant improvements in our public water and wastewater services, support improved water supplies right across Ireland, including rural Ireland, and support a range of programmes delivering improved water quality in our rivers, lakes and marine area. The prioritisation and progression of individual projects is a matter for determination by Irish Water.

Irish Water has established a dedicated team to deal with representations and queries from public representatives. The team can be contacted via email to oireachtasmembers@water.ie or by telephone on a dedicated number, 1890 578 578.

Natural Heritage Areas

Questions (251)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

251. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if a review of the protection of natural heritage, including hedgerows, native woodlands and wetlands, is being carried out; if not, when this will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2901/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Regional Management Staff in the National Parks and Wildlife Section of my Department oversee the protection of our natural heritage on an ongoing basis in line with their functions under the Wildlife Acts and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011. A new Wildlife Crime Unit will be established in the National Parks and Wildlife Service this year and this will facilitate a review of how all habitats and species are protected including those habitats mentioned by the Deputy.

Citizens' Assembly

Questions (252)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

252. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when the establishment of a Citizens' Assembly on biodiversity will commence; the efforts made to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2920/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

While primary responsibility for convening of the assemblies rests with Department of the Taoiseach, the convening of a Citizens' Assembly on Biodiversity is under discussion at a senior level between the Department of the Taoiseach and my Department. These discussions primarily relate to the scope and timing of the assembly.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

Questions (253)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

253. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the number of district conservation officers, wildlife inspectors, conservation rangers and ecologists who were recruited for the National Parks and Wildlife Service in each of the past three years, in tabular form. [2926/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

The number of staff recruited for the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the grades requested for the years 2018 to 2020 are set out in the table below.

2018

1 Head of Ecological Assessment

2 Wildlife Inspectors Grade 2

8 Ecologists/Wildlife Inspectors Grade 3

2 District Conservation Officers

2019

1 Ecological Data Manager

1 Wildlife Inspector Grade 1

7 Ecologists/Wildlife Inspectors Grade 3

16 Conservation Rangers

3 District Conservation Officers

2020

1 Wildlife Inspector Grade 1

2 Wildlife Inspectors Grade 2

2 Wildlife Inspectors Grade 3

2 Ecologists/Wildlife Inspectors Grade 3

2 District Conservation Officers

3 Conservation Rangers

Housing Adaptation Grant

Questions (254)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

254. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the estimated annual cost if the budget for housing adaptation grants for older persons and persons with disability was increased by 5%. [2927/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

In 2021, a total of €75 million is available for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability Scheme, in respect of private houses. This is made up of €60 million Exchequer funding, with the balance of €15 million in local authority contributions. The suite of grants include the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability, the Mobility Aids Grant and the Housing Aid for Older People.

Increasing funding by 5% would cost an additional €3 million to the Exchequer, with a further €750,000 to be contributed by the local authorities.

Further consideration will be given to this funding over the coming years in the context of the range of housing supports and provisions available and also considering the Housing Options for Our Ageing Population - Policy Statement (Actions 4.1/4.2), which is available on my Department's website at the following link:

www.gov.ie/en/publication/ea33c1-housing-options-for-our-ageing-population-policy-statement/.

Harbours and Piers

Questions (255)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

255. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his attention has been drawn to the recent damage to Coliemore Harbour that has rendered it virtually unusable (details supplied); the actions his Department and the National Monument Service have taken, in conjunction with the local authority, to repair the damage caused in August 2020; if he will provide a schedule for the repairs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2954/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Coliemore Harbour is a recorded monument and is therefore protected under the National Monuments Acts 1930-2020.

As required under those Acts, my Department's National Monuments Service (NMS) has been notified by the local authority of its proposals for investigations and repair of a collapse of the bedrock supporting a footpath leading to the southern jetty. NMS is liaising with the local authority and will provide appropriate archaeological advice and guidance as required.

Housing Issues

Questions (256)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

256. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if his attention has been drawn to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2955/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the very stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes.

The Programme for Government sets out a number of commitments in respect of the important policy area of building defects and provides for an examination of defective housing, having regard to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing report, "Safe as Houses".

In this regard, my Department is actively engaging with key stakeholders and I have had several meetings with stakeholder representative groups on this matter over recent months. My Department is currently working to establish the structures to examine the issue of defective housing, this will include apartment buildings, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government.

I recently appointed Mr Seamus Neely, former Chief Executive of Donegal County Council, to the position of Chair to the independent working group to oversee the effective implementation of the group’s terms of reference which are currently being finalised.

In regard to the issues raised by the Deputy on planning matters, section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (the Act) precludes me from intervening or commenting on any particular cases either at local authority level or with An Bord Pleanála.

This is particularly relevant to the operation of section 35 of the Act, which relates directly to particular developments or proposed developments which are the subject of a deliberative assessment process. It is a matter solely for a Planning Authority to invoke the operation of Section 35 subject to the requirements set out in legislation.

In relation to the regulation of builders, the Government is committed to placing the Construction Industry Register Ireland, or CIRI, on a statutory footing. CIRI was established on a voluntary basis in 2014 and 798 building and contracting entities are currently included on the register. The voluntary register can be viewed online at the following link: www.ciri.ie/register/.

Government approved the General Scheme of a Bill to place the CIRI on a statutory footing on 30 May 2017, which was referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Committee’s report has since been received and my Department is currently working through the Committee’s recommendations. The General Scheme, which was published in 2017, is available on my Department's website at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/publication/3e711-building-control/.

The main objective of the proposed legislation is to develop and promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with Building Regulations within the builder community of the construction sector. The establishment of a robust, mandatory, statutory register of builders and specialist contractors is an essential consumer protection measure giving those who engage a registered builder the assurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant operator. The Bill will also allow for complaints against registered builders to be made on a number of grounds and provides for a range of proportionate sanctions to be imposed after investigation.

This legislation is a key component of the ongoing building control reform agenda, which also includes the amendments made to the Building Control Regulations and the establishment of the National Building Control Office. This agenda provides a comprehensive roadmap for embedding a culture of real compliance within the construction industry.

My Department is working with the Attorney General's Office with a view to achieving publication of the Bill in Q1 of this year.

Irish Aid

Questions (257)

Patrick Costello

Question:

257. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the full details in the 2019 annual report of overseas development aid disbursements, that are usually included as annexes in previous reports, are to be published by his Department. [2267/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs publishes the Irish Aid Annual Report on Ireland's Official Development Assistance, which includes statistical annexes based on material provided by a number of Government Departments and the Revenue Commissioners, in addition to that generated by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Prior to publication, draft statistical returns are run by the relevant OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) experts for assurance that Ireland's reported spend meets the DAC's criteria to be counted as ODA. This assurance is important to maintaining Ireland's reputation as a quality donor.

The 2019 Annual Report on the Government's Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme was launched on 10 November 2020. The text is available on the Irish Aid website. To enable publication of the 2019 report during 2020, it was decided to go ahead without the full complement of statistical annexes - there were a number of annexes whose progress through the DAC assurance process was delayed, in part due to changed work arrangements arising from COVID-19. Three of the outstanding annexes have since been published on the Irish Aid website and the final three annexes will be published on the Irish Aid website before the end of January.

Brexit Issues

Questions (258)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

258. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will address a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2369/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has been very clear that the UK’s decision to leave the EU would mean an end to seamless trade between the EU and UK. Even with an EU-UK trade deal in place, the UK is no longer a member of the Single Market and Customs Union. This means that businesses must engage with a range of checks and controls on their trade with the UK that did not previously apply.

The Government appreciates that this presents significant challenges for many business and sectors and brings additional challenges to supply chains. We have put in place a range of dedicated supports and are providing ongoing assistance to assist traders in adapting to the new procedures. Where difficulties have arisen for users in specific cases, the Government has been engaging directly with them to get these difficulties resolved. We are working 24/7 to ensure trade can flow to the greatest extent possible but industry also has to do its part to make this work. The best way to ensure that goods pass as smoothly and efficiently as possible through our ports is to correctly complete the required paperwork in advance of moving those goods. In recent days, we have seen that more than 70% of trucks are doing this and are being ‘green-lighted’ to leave our ports directly upon disembarkation.

The Department for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Revenue Commissioners continue to be available to assist businesses and I would urge traders to make use of the available resources.

The Deputy will also wish to note that the Revenue Commissioners issued updated guidance on the import of vehicles from Great Britain and Northern Ireland in light of the new trading arrangements that are now in place.

Ministerial Correspondence

Questions (259)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

259. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he will respond to correspondence sent to him by an organisation (details supplied) on 23 November 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2376/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I can confirm to the Deputy that I received correspondence from the organisation concerned on 30 November 2020. The Christmas and New Year holiday period, as well as work pressures under current circumstances, contributed to a delay in responding. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a reply to the correspondence issued from my office on 15 January 2021.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (260)

Holly Cairns

Question:

260. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if employees of his Department have received Covid-19 vaccines due to their role in the Department; if so, the rationale for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2401/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

No employee of the Department of Foreign Affairs has received a COVID-19 vaccine in Ireland. A number of employees of the Department abroad have been advised by the host country in which they are posted that they and their dependents are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine locally should they wish to avail of it. The timing for such vaccination will be in line with the plans set out by the host country in question.