Foreign Policy

Questions (370)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

370. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 285 of 10 December 2020, the agreements with respect to visas that exist between the two countries; the matters covered by these agreements; the contents of the agreements; when they came into effect; the way in which the inapplicability to illegal settlements and territories occupied by Israel in 1967 is ensured in practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7050/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

With regard to the agreement on visas, this refers to a 1985 Exchange of Notes relating to the abolition of visas between Ireland and Israel. This is given effect through the exemption of Israeli passport holders from Irish Visa Requirements, as provided for under the Immigration Act 2004 (Visas) Order 2014.

Ireland has consistently and strongly opposed settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, and will continue to do so. Such settlements are illegal under international law and actively undermine the viability of a negotiated two-State solution in line with the internationally agreed parameters.

UN Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted on 23 December 2016, states that Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory have no legal validity and are a major obstacle to peace. The Resolution calls for an immediate end to settlement activities and also calls on all States to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. Ireland’s bilateral agreements with Israel do not apply to territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Ireland continues to call on the Israeli Government to halt all settlement construction.

Northern Ireland

Questions (371)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

371. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps taken by his Department to progress the purchase of the rights to a book (details supplied). [7185/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The importance of acknowledging, respecting and effectively dealing with the tragic legacy of the past cannot be underestimated. Lost Lives, which chronicles all of the 3,700 people killed in the conflict, is a significant historical and social resource.

The rights to Lost Lives are solely a matter for its authors, who have made such a valuable contribution to history in compiling this important work. Should the authors wish to explore what support could be provided with respect to the accessibility of Lost Lives into the future, the Government would be open and ready to engage on any appropriate avenues for that support.

The Government also facilitates remembrance of lives lost during the Troubles through a range of projects and initiatives supported by the Reconciliation Fund. These include, among many others, the annual Day of Reflection promoted by the Healing Through Remembering group to facilitate quiet remembrance of the impact of the conflict on lives across these islands, and the important work of CAIN at Ulster University, which provides a comprehensive chronology of the Troubles, and a permanent reminder of the tragic events which saw so many lose their lives and left so many bereaved.

Irish Aid

Questions Nos. 373 to 375, inclusive, answered with Question No. 357.

Questions (372)

Barry Cowen

Question:

372. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether Irish Aid should open its election observation roster to applications at any time to bring it in line with opportunities on the rapid response roster (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7214/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs enables participation in a range of overseas deployment opportunities for suitably qualified and vetted volunteers, typically involving placement with, or by, third party organisations,facilitated by the Department through a range of rosters, registers, initiatives and programmes, including the Election Observation Roster and the Rapid Response Corps.

The current Election Observation Roster of volunteers for nomination to EU and/or OSCE election observation missions was established effective as of 1 January 2019 for five years. There are approximately 200 members of the roster selected through a competitive process and appropriately vetted. The five year lifetime of the roster allows volunteer members to anticipate potentially being accepted, upon nomination to the EU or the OSCE, for at least one observation mission during the lifetime of the roster. Reducing the duration of the roster to less than the advertised five years could deprive existing volunteer members of an opportunity to observe a mission, while the additional administrative and other overheads of more regular musters of volunteers would be a consideration also.

The Rapid Response Corps is roster of experts available to deploy at short notice under the UN Standby Partnership Programme in response to severe, sudden-onset crises and emergencies. The specialist nature of the Rapid Response Corps means it has a different remit and is not analogous to the volunteer election roster. As outlined in response to Parliamentary Question No. 329 of 3 February 2021, this Department expects to launch the next recruitment campaign to that roster in 2022. The last such recruitment took place in 2018. The timing of recruitment campaigns is to ensure that the skills of Rapid Response Corps members are aligned with the skills demanded by UN agencies within the Standby Partnership Programme, which can vary periodically.

Questions Nos. 373 to 375, inclusive, answered with Question No. 357.

EU Agreements

Questions (376)

Neale Richmond

Question:

376. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has engaged with the Northern Ireland Executive following the triggering of Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7296/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am in regular contact with the First Minister, deputy First Minister, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and other political leaders in Northern Ireland on a range of issues. Most recently, on Monday 1 February, I jointly chaired a 'quad' meeting with the Minister of State for Northern Ireland Robin Walker, First Minister Arlene Foster, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Northern Ireland Minister of Health Robin Swann, as part of our ongoing engagement and cooperation on Covid-19. I will continue to engage regularly with counterparts in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain as we move forward on these and other important issues.

The decision by the European Commission last Friday to enact Article 16 of the Protocol was a mistake. It should not have happened. As the Deputy will be aware, it was in the context of a commercial dispute with Astra Zeneca over vaccines; this is an entirely separate issue to the operation of the Protocol. The Government intervened at the highest levels as soon as we became aware of the issue. We welcome the fact that the Commission immediately reversed the decision. Ireland is engaging with the Commission to ensure this does not happen again.

I, and officials in my Department, will continue to engage closely with counterparts and other stakeholders in Northern Ireland, including in the business community, on issues related to implementation of the Protocol and Brexit more generally. The Government will continue to support the work of the EU and the British Government to try to find agreed solutions for some of the challenges, in line with the Protocol itself and the approach agreed by the UK and EU on implementation only six weeks ago.

We have consistently said that we want the Protocol to work for Northern Ireland, and for the island as a whole, in as smooth a manner as possible. What is required now is calm, measured and pragmatic engagement to ensure smooth implementation of the Protocol.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (377, 379)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

377. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has spoken to his counterparts in Europe regarding the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia; the discussions he had; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7319/21]

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Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

379. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the aid Ireland has provided to the Tigray region of Ethiopia in recent weeks; if he has raised the humanitarian crisis in the region with international partners or at the UN; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7341/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 377 and 379 together.

Ireland remains deeply concerned by the ongoing armed conflict between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the former regional authorities in Tigray, which began on 4 November. The conflict has had a devastating impact on the population of Tigray, and poses severe risks to the stability of the wider Horn of Africa region.

Ireland is engaging directly as well as actively supporting the efforts of the EU, UN and wider international community to address the crisis, including through engagement with the African Union. We are strongly supportive of regional efforts to try to find a resolution to the conflict. However progress has been limited to date.

Ireland raised the situation in Ethiopia at the UN Security Council on 3 February, expressing deep concern at the humanitarian situation in Tigray and calling for unhindered humanitarian access. Ireland also called on all parties in Tigray to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law including those related to the protection of civilians and prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. Ireland will continue to advocate for an urgent response to the humanitarian situation, and for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

In contacts with key interlocutors, Minister Coveney has called on all parties to cease hostilities, respect international humanitarian law and begin dialogue, as well as for immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to affected areas. He has condemned reported atrocities and identity-based attacks, and has called for the human rights of all Ethiopians to be upheld. Ireland continues to engage with regional actors in this regard, including in Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Pretoria, and through our membership of the European Union.

Last week, and following discussion of the situation in Ethiopia at the Foreign Affairs Council on 25 January, Minister Coveney raised the situation in Tigray with his counterparts in Germany, in the context of contacts between Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and Finland, in advance of the visit to the region by its Foreign Minister on behalf of the EU. Ireland will continue to work closely with our EU partners to ensure a strong response to the crisis.

My Department has provided over €2.6 million to date to support the humanitarian response to the Tigray crisis. This includes €1.4 million to Irish NGOs within Tigray, €500,000 to the UN refugee agency to support the refugee response in neighbouring Sudan, and almost €750,000 towards humanitarian stocks, and supports for the protection of women and girls.

Departmental Data

Question No. 379 answered with Question No. 377.

Question No. 380 answered with Question No. 368.

Questions (378)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

378. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when his Department will publish updated figures for Ireland's 2019 climate finance contributions as required under the Paris Climate Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7335/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland's international climate finance expenditure is calculated on an annual basis in a retrospective process coordinated by my Department with inputs from the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, the Department of Finance and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The 2019 Report is being finalised with a view to publication during February, and will detail Ireland’s international financial support to the objectives of the Rio Conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification, as well as Ireland’s financial support for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and resilience in the face of climatic and weather-related events.

The 2019 Report will demonstrate continued progress in our contributions to the Paris Agreement, with a further year-on-year increase in Ireland's international climate expenditure. It is anticipated that the 2019 Report will show a 17% increase in international climate expenditure compared to 2018.

Ireland's international climate finance continues to be focused on the Least Developed Countries and on Small Island Developing States. 99% of Ireland's international climate expenditure is allocated to assist the most vulnerable and strengthen their ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change, as well as on activities that combine adaptation with mitigation benefits.

The recently established Climate Unit in my Department is coordinating with other Departments to continue to scale up and to meet the Programme for Government commitment to double the overall proportion of Ireland's development assistance that counts as climate finance. The Climate Unit, in collaboration with other Government Departments, is also supporting Ireland's climate diplomacy on the UN Security Council and in other fora in preparation for COP26 in Glasgow in November this year.

Question No. 379 answered with Question No. 377.
Question No. 380 answered with Question No. 368.

Military Aircraft

Questions (381)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

381. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence if there are plans to replace the two EC135 P2 type of Air Corps aircraft; and the average lifespan of military helicopters and aircraft. [6609/21]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces, including the Air Corps, is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable them to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

The Equipment Development Plan (EDP) published in June 2020, completed through extensive joint civil-military work, provides a comprehensive list of planned equipment projects by means of a five-year rolling plan. The EDP builds on the intentions set out in the White Paper in relation to equipment acquisition, modernisation and upgrade and has been developed to ensure that the Defence Forces have the major equipment platforms, ancillary equipment and force protection equipment to carry out their important roles both at home and overseas.

The Air Corps operate a fleet of fixed and rotary wing aircraft which provide military support to the Army and Naval Service, together with support for non-military air services such as Garda air support, air ambulance, fisheries protection and the Ministerial Air Transport Service.

The Air Corps two (2) EC135 P2 helicopters entered service in 2005 and will continue, along the fleet of six (6) AW139 helicopters, to deliver the required Defence Forces support and other support capabilities. It is not easy to generalise as to the lifespan of aircraft as this is a function of usage, frequency of landings, the maintenance regime adopted, safety factors and changes in and availability of technological updates which can all bear on the availability and cost effectiveness of maintaining an aircraft in service. Subject to these factors, the average lifespan of most military aircraft would be expected to be 30 years, although there are cases where this period is shorter and indeed, much longer. All equipment priorities are kept under continuous review and there are no plans to replace helicopters at this time.

More generally, a step change in military air-based capability is being achieved, however, through the delivery into service of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. While nominally a replacement for the Cessna, the new aircraft move capabilities considerably ahead of the previous level. The original order of three aircraft which were delivered in September 2020 was augmented on an urgent basis by an additional aircraft delivered in April 2020 to enhance fixed wing capacity to meet demands arising from Covid-19. The PC-12 has proven itself an effective and versatile asset.

The White Paper also provides for the replacement of the two CASA 235 maritime patrol aircraft with consideration to be given to their replacement with larger more capable aircraft which would enhance maritime surveillance and provide a greater degree of utility for transport and cargo carrying tasks. A contract for the supply of two C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft was entered into with Airbus Defence and Space in December 2019, with delivery of the aircraft expected in 2023.

The examples given, whilst not exhaustive, demonstrate my commitment to update and upgrade the Defence Forces equipment and capability, within the financial envelope available. Investment under the National Development Plan (NDP) continues to increase. Budget 2021 provides for a further increased gross NDP allocation to €131m in the defence capital budget in respect of equipment and barracks infrastructure. This level of capital funding will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service as identified and prioritised in the Defence White Paper and builds on the significant investment programme over recent years.

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces, including the Air Corps have the necessary modern and effective range of equipment available to them which is in line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.

Defence Forces Data

Questions (382)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

382. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the number of civilian or military pharmacists working in the Defence Forces in 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form. [6610/21]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

My Department currently employs one civilian pharmacist, together with two military pharmacists serving in the Defence Forces. The information for the years requested is outlined in the table.

Year

Civilian Pharmacists

Military Pharmacists

2019

2

2

2020

1

2

2021

1

2

Defence Forces Data

Questions (383)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

383. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the number of full-time qualified gas boiler engineers employed by either the Defence Forces or his Department in each military barracks to date in 2021. [6611/21]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

My Department employs a broad spectrum of grades to support the upkeep and maintenance of military infrastructure and equipment. My Department does not employ anyone as a full-time, qualified, gas boiler engineer, nor is there anyone serving in the Corps of Engineers of the Defence Forces as a full-time, qualified, gas boiler engineer. However, such a qualification is held by a number of plumbers among the civilian and military personnel.

Defence Forces Data

Questions (384)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

384. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the number of qualified electrical artificers that joined the Naval Service in 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form; and the number that left during same period. [6612/21]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

A direct entry competition for Electrical Artificers was launched in November 2019 with a view to inducting personnel in 2020. However no applicants were successful and there were no inductions arising.

The Electrical Artificer Trainee Technician scheme (TTS) continues to run and there are 17 personnel scheduled to qualify from that scheme between now and 2024. These personnel will fill the relevant vacant positions in the Naval Service.

Six Electrical Artificers left in the period between 2019 to 2020.

Defence Forces Review

Questions (385)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

385. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence if he will appoint a serving member of the Defence Forces to the Defence Forces Commission. [7201/21]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

Following Government approval for the establishment of an independent Commission on the Defence Forces in December 2020, the Commission was tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review of the Defence Forces with a mandate to report within 12 months.

The Government also approved the Terms of Reference and the membership of the Commission. The members of the Commission have been carefully chosen to ensure the optimum range of expertise in key areas. The Commission is chaired by Aidan O'Driscoll, a former Secretary General in the Department of Agriculture and, more recently, in the Department of Justice and Equality. He is joined by 14 other members with national and international expertise across a range of disciplines including public policy, defence and foreign policy, military operations, and with significant leadership experience in the public and private sectors. The Commission has been established as an independent body and thus it is appropriate that its members are not currently serving in any capacity which would be impacted by the Commission's recommendations on the Defence Forces.

I am aware that the Commission has launched its website and invited submissions from individuals and organisations on issues relevant to its Terms of Reference as part of a broad consultation process. While it is a matter entirely for the Commission, I understand that further discussions and consultations are planned with Defence Forces personnel of all ranks, including military management, and the Commission will also be engaging with the Defence Forces Representative Associations and other key stakeholder groups.

Defence Forces

Questions (386, 387, 388)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

386. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the functions of the Council of Defence established under section 11 of the Defence Act 1954; and the authority by which it was delegated these functions. [7261/21]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

387. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence when the Council of Defence established under section 11 of the Defence Act 1954 last met; and if he will provide this Deputy with the minutes of its last meeting. [7262/21]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

388. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if the Council of Defence established under section 11 of the Defence Act 1954 is responsible for any expenditure; if any member is entitled to expenses or allowances by virtue of membership of the Council or in the exercise of any related functions; and the details of any such expenditure, expenses or allowances incurred to date. [7263/21]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 386 to 388, inclusive, together.

Section 11 of the Defence Act 1954 provides that there shall stand established a body to be called the Council of Defence. The Council consists of the Minister of State at the Department of Defence, the Secretary General of the Department, the Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) and the Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations). The function of the Council which is provided for in section 11(1) is to aid and counsel the Minister for Defence on all matters in relation to the business of the Department of Defence on which the Minister may consult the Council. No other functions have been assigned to the Council other than the specific function provided for in the Act.

The Council last met in 1987. The Department is currently retrieving a file from the archives to check as to whether there were any minutes kept of the meeting and I will correspond with the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Although the Council of Defence has not been convened in recent years, advice is readily available to the Minister from civil and military staff without the formality of the Council. In this regard, the Minister regularly chairs meetings of the Defence Organisations Leadership team with all members of the Department's Management Board and the General Staff in attendance. The Minister also attends meetings from time to time of the Department's Management Board and also receives regular briefings from the Secretary General as his principal policy adviser and the Chief of Staff as his principal military adviser.

As members of the Council are full time officials, military personnel or office holders, no expenses or allowances are payable arising from their membership of the Council.