Human Rights

Questions (139)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

139. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on and response to the ongoing farmer protests in New Delhi, India; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9185/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I have been informed by our Embassy in New Delhi about recent protests by farmers in India against legislation which was passed by the Indian Parliament last September with the stated aim of reforming India's agricultural markets. However, the protesters claim the legislation would remove guaranteed minimum prices for their products and, more broadly, would affect the viability of small farms.

As the Deputy will be aware, large protests by farmers have taken place across India since the passing of the laws, and in particular around the capital region of New Delhi. Last month India’s Supreme Court put a stay on the implementation of the new laws pending further examination of the process that was followed to pass the legislation. Thus far the Indian Government has held eleven rounds of negotiations with the leaders of the protests, and last week Prime Minister Modi called for these negotiations to continue.

The right to peaceful protest is protected by International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is ratified by India and which guarantees the rights of peaceful assembly, association and expression. I am aware of claims regarding the deaths of protesters and the arrest of human rights defenders at the protests but I am assured that the overwhelming majority of protests have taken place in a peaceful atmosphere. I have asked our Embassy in New Delhi to continue to report on developments.

International Criminal Court

Questions (140)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

140. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on and response to the decision by the International Criminal Court in the Hague which confirmed that it has jurisdiction over the occupied Palestine; the actions he has taken on foot of this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9188/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware of the Pre-Trial Chamber’s ruling on 5 February in relation to the scope of territorial jurisdiction in the occupied Palestinian territory. Ireland is a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court and is committed to preserving the independence and impartiality of the Court’s judicial process. The Court remains seized of the situation and we do not comment on ongoing legal processes.

Middle East

Questions (141)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

141. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on and response to the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9189/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland and the EU have consistently called on the Israeli Government to uphold its international legal obligations, including under the Fourth Geneva Convention, on the treatment of civilian populations. Jerusalem is one of the permanent status issues to be settled in a final peace agreement.

I have consistently focused on the issues surrounding settlements, including evictions and seizures of property, as a major driver of the continuing conflict and an obstacle to peace. In my statement to the UN Security Council on 26 January I urged Israel to halt continued settlement expansion, including in East Jerusalem.

Ireland provides humanitarian assistance and support to specific development projects to improve the situation of Palestinians. Ireland funds a number of civil society partners that are active on human rights issues which impact specifically on Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including in relation to the evictions which the Deputy has raised.

I am aware of the situation in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, and the long-standing threat of eviction faced by Palestinian residents in these areas. Ireland’s Representative Office in Ramallah continues to monitor the situation closely, in cooperation with partners on the ground.

Diplomatic Representation

Questions (142)

Joan Collins

Question:

142. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 125 of 11 February 2021, the date that each embassy applied for permission to operate polling stations for electoral events in their country of origin; the date permission was granted in each case in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9255/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The following table provides details of when each Embassy informed the Department of Foreign Affairs of its intention to operate a polling station, the date on which the Department confirmed it had no objections to the operation of a polling station, and the date on which polling took place.

In addition to the details noted as follows, two Embassies, Poland and Spain, informed the Department of their intention to provide for postal voting for their citizens. In each case, postal voting did not involve the operation of a polling station.

Embassy

Date DFA Informed

Date of DFA confirmed

Polling Date

Notes

Hungary

9 Dec 2019 and 4 Aug 2020

7 Jan 2020 and 22 Sep 2020

16 Feb 2020 and 11 Oct 2020

France

25 Feb 2020

n/a

17 May 2020

Elections cancelled

Russia

9 June 2020

30 June 2020

1 July 2020

Croatia

25 May 2020

18 June 2020

4 - 5 July 2020

Myanmar

2 Sep 2020

30 Sep 2020

3-4 Oct 2020

Lithuania

28 Sep 2020

8 Oct 2020

8 -11 Oct 2020

Over 95% of polling by post

Chile

23 Sep 2020

23 Oct 2020

25 Oct 2020

Georgia

31 July 2020

29 Oct 2020

31 Oct 2020

Algeria

28 Sep 2020

29 Oct 2020

31 Oct – 1 Nov 2020

Moldova

28 Feb 2020 and 3 Nov 2020

29 Oct and 11 Nov 2020

1 Nov 2020 and 15 Nov 2020

Romania

2 July 2020

3 Dec 2020

4 -5 Dec 2020

Portugal

17 Dec 2020

11 Jan 2021

12 -14 Jan & 23 -24 Jan 2021

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (143)

John Brady

Question:

143. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland will take on the issue of global access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments given that the United Nations Security Council will soon debate it; if Ireland is actively supporting the tabling of such a motion; if Ireland will support the implementation of the WHO global technology access pool as part of its contribution to that debate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9268/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

While the World Health Organisation is leading the multilateral system response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Security Council has a role to play in addressing the potential threats to international peace and security arising from the pandemic. This is recognised in Security Council Resolution 2532 adopted last July. The Minister for Foreign Affairs participated in a meeting of the Security Council on Covid-19 on 17 February.

The Security Council debate does raise issues better addressed within the competency of other parts of the UN system. WHO is the lead on global health and the Covid-19 response, and in recognition of this, the Government quadrupled funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2020.

Vaccine supply constraints remain an issue, particularly for low-income countries. These countries also need support in other aspects of Covid-19 response such as access to PPE, as well as strengthening of their health systems to respond to this and other disease threats. In response , the Irish Aid allocation to global health will increase to at least €50 million in 2021, at least 9% of my Department's budget for Official Development Assistance. This funding will include a contribution to the vaccine response as well as funding of long-standing global health partners.

Ireland has welcomed the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). The Government shares the objectives for the initiative to achieve a common outcome in public health for the benefit of all. The C-TAP proposal touches on the work of a number of Government Departments and other stakeholders. My Department is consulting with relevant stakeholders with a view to considering practical engagement.

Ireland is fully supportive of efforts by the international community, including as an EU Member State, to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for all.

Middle East

Questions (144)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

144. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the 1993 Oslo Accords did not result in devolved authority to the Palestinians for public health in view of the emphasis he placed on respect for international law and agreed international parameters in his recent statement to the UN Security Council on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question; his further views on whether Israel is the occupying power which exercises full control over the lives of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories; his further views on whether Israel therefore has a responsibility under international law, in particular, the fourth Geneva Convention, and a moral obligation to provide the Covid-19 vaccine to Palestinians; his further views on whether Ireland has a responsibility to put pressure on Israel to abide by these obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9358/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland advocates prioritising the vaccination of the most vulnerable communities in developing countries, including the occupied Palestinian territory.

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have responsibilities to ensure the welfare of citizens in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Israel’s responsibility as the occupying power. I am aware of the differing views between Israel and the Palestinian Authority regarding their respective duties and the frustration at a lack of resolution.

Ireland has raised the matter with both Israeli and Palestinian authorities in recent days and we continue to encourage cooperation. I spoke with the Palestinian Prime Minister on 16 February and he updated me on progress made on provision of Covid-19 vaccines for the Palestinian people, including through the COVAX mechanism, to which Ireland is contributing.

As I outlined in my statement to the UN Security Council on 26 January, ending the worst effects of the pandemic for all requires constructive cooperation to support timely, effective and unimpeded vaccination in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. Ireland will continue to engage on supporting vaccination efforts in the occupied Palestinian territory and more broadly to the most vulnerable globally.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Questions (145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

145. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the purpose of the defence meetings listed in the diary of the Minister of State on 22 December 2020, 26 and 29 January 2021 in the context of his previous assurance that full responsibility for Defence remains with him and that no functions have been delegated to the Minister of State. [9102/21]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

146. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if the Minister of State was representing his Department when they met with an organisation (details supplied) on 22 January 2021; the purpose of the meeting; and if the Minister of State has been delegated the function of representing his Department in meetings with representatives of Defence Forces personnel. [9103/21]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

147. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if the Minister of State was representing his Department when they met with the Defence attaché of the British Embassy on 12 February 2021; the purpose of this meeting; and if the Minister of State has been delegated the function of representing his Department in discussions on defence co-operation with representatives of foreign governments and militaries. [9104/21]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

148. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if the Minister of State has the delegated authority to discuss important defence cooperation with representatives of foreign governments as described by a social media account (details supplied). [9105/21]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

149. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if the Minister of State has been delegated any function or power to negotiate or conclude agreements with foreign military powers on behalf of the Government. [9106/21]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

150. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the reason the public was first informed of the Minister of State's new function discussing important defence co-operation with representatives of foreign governments by the Defence attaché of the British Embassy and not by a representative of his Department; when the decision was made to delegate this function to the Minister of State; and the reason Dáil Éireann was not informed of this delegation of functions. [9107/21]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

151. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if he retains responsibility for meeting with representatives of Defence Forces personnel or conducting discussions on defence co-operation with representatives of foreign governments and militaries; if this is now the sole responsibility of the Minister of State; and the breakdown of the delineation of roles within the Department between him and the Minister of State. [9108/21]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

152. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if the Minister of State has been delegated the function of establishing a permanent pay commission for defence, as he outlined in an article (details supplied) and as circulated by the Minister of State on social media the same day. [9109/21]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

153. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if the Minister of State was speaking for his Department when they promised to establish a permanent pay commission for defence in an article (details supplied) and as circulated by the Minister of State on social media on the same day. [9110/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 to 153, inclusive, together.

Deputy Jack Chambers was appointed Minister of State at the Department of An Taoiseach and Government Chief Whip and at the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and the Media with special responsibility for the Gaeltacht and Sport on 15 July, 2020. His appointment as Minister of State and the responsibilities being assigned to him were announced at that time. On 17 November, 2020, he was assigned an additional role as Minister of State at the Department of Defence solely to fill a position as a member of the Council of Defence. The requirement for a Minister of State for Defence, in this regard, arises from the provisions of section 11 of the Defence Act, 1954 on the establishment of the Council for Defence. No functions of the Minister for Defence have been delegated to the Minister of State and full responsibility for defence policies, the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces remains with Minister Coveney who will continue to represent Defence at Cabinet. As this is essentially a technical appointment with no delegation of functions, no specific announcement was made at the time.

Minister of State Chambers has engaged in a number of meetings in relation to defence matters since his appointment. At none of those meetings was he discharging functions in respect of Defence Policy generally or the business of the Department or the Defence Forces. As I understand it, he was familiarising himself with Defence stakeholders, receiving briefs on defence issues and Defence Forces operations in the context of his membership of the Council of Defence. As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, his membership of the Council would benefit from some knowledge of Defence and current issues in that regard. I understand that the meetings attended on the relevant dates included a meeting with the Secretary General and the Management Board of my Department, a briefing on the Defence Forces Joint Task Force on Covid in McKee Barracks, a party policy discussion on defence and a meeting with PDFORRA.

On 12 February, 2021, the Minister of State met virtually with the new British Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Mr Paul Johnston. This was one of a number of introductory meetings the newly appointed Ambassador has had with various Ministers and Officials. The meeting with Minister of State Chambers touched on all areas of the Minister of State’s responsibilities, including sports, the Gaeltacht, parliamentary business and defence and the discussion was of a general nature. The Ambassador was accompanied by his Defence Attaché and the Minister of State was accompanied by an official from my Department at the meeting.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish an independent Commission on the Defence Forces and on completion of the Commission’s work that a permanent pay review body for the Permanent Defence Force will be established. The Commission has been established and is due to report by the end of 2021. The Terms of Reference for the Commission on the Defence Forces state: “Upon completion of the Commission’s work, the Minister for Defence will consult with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on the establishment of a permanent pay review body, reflecting the unique nature of military service in the context of the public service. All recommendations by the Commission or the successor body and their implementation must be consistent with national public sector wage policy.” While I am aware of the reports referenced by the Deputy in his question, I can confirm that no functions in this regard have been delegated to the Minister of State.

Departmental Funding

Questions (154)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

154. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the contact details for the sections that deal with all ongoing and established grant funding in his Department and in each agency under the remit of his Department in tabular form. [9124/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

My Department provides grant funding to local authorities in relation to running costs for Civil Defence. Civil Defence funding includes annual operational grants payable to Local Authorities for the provision of Civil Defence services. Operational grants cover 70% of the running costs of Civil Defence annually with Local Authorities providing the remainder. On application, other grants are also issued to the Local Authorities from time to time towards the purchase of vehicles and equipment and other miscellaneous costs incurred by Civil Defence Units.

My Department also pays an annual grant to the Irish Red Cross which goes towards their annual administration costs and includes Ireland’s contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In December 2018 Government agreed to provide grant funding to Sail Training Ireland. This funding was provided through my Department initially for a two year period and is subject to compliance with a Performance Delivery Agreement.

Grant funding by my Department is paid in line with relevant public financial procedures and is administered by:

Civil Defence Branch,

Department of Defence,

Benamore,

Roscrea, Co. Tipperary,

Eircode: E53 CY80

Telephone: (Tel 0505-25310)

Email: civildefence@defence.ie.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (155)

Seán Canney

Question:

155. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Defence if it will be ensured that all Army personnel who are going on peacekeeping duties abroad will receive the Covid-19 vaccine before they depart for duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9155/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

The COVID-19 vaccine Allocation Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and the Department of Health, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020. It sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination.

The Defence Forces has established vaccine prioritisation which is in line with this national allocation strategy. Initial Vaccination priority is for Defence Force personnel who are providing front line support to the HSE and National Ambulance Service in the national effort to combat COVID 19. Personnel selected for overseas service will fall into a prioritised grouping, and will be vaccinated in line with the national allocation strategy and the Defence Forces prioritisation list, subject to availability of the vaccine which is coordinated through the HSE.

Legislative Measures

Questions (156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163)

Gary Gannon

Question:

156. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing section 13, duty of the Minister and Minister for Health and Children to make resources available, in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. [8999/21]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

157. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing section 10, designation of schools, and section 17, liaison officers, in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. [9000/21]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

158. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing section 14, duty of schools, in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. [9001/21]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

159. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing section 18, preparation of education plan at direction of council, in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. [9002/21]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

160. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing section 39, duty of the HSE, in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. [9003/21]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

161. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing section 8, preparation of education plan at direction of Council, in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. [9004/21]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

162. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing sections 3 to 7, 9 and 18 in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. [9005/21]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

163. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Education the estimated cost of fully implementing sections 11, 12, 15, 16 and 38 in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. [9006/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 to 163, inclusive, together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that a number of sections of the Education for Persons with Special Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 have been commenced. The commenced provisions include those establishing the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and those providing for an inclusive approach to the education of children with special educational needs.

The following sections of the EPSEN Act were commenced in 2005.

Section 1 – Interpretation

Section 2 - providing for the inclusive education of children with Special Educational Needs

Section 14 – placing certain duties on schools

Sections 19 to 37 - placing the Council on a statutory footing.

Section 39 - placing certain duties on Health Boards

Sections 40 to 53 - amending the Education Act

Schedule 1 – providing for meetings and membership of the Council

Schedule 2 providing for the Chief Executive Officer of the Council.

The remaining sections of the Act have yet to be commenced. The Sections of the EPSEN Act which have not been implemented are those which would have conferred a statutory entitlement to –

- an educational assessment for all children with special educational needs.

- consequent development of a statutory individual educational plan (IEP).

- the delivery of detailed educational services on foot of this plan.

- an independent appeals process.

The NCSE estimated, in its Plan for the Implementation of the EPSEN Act Report, which was published in 2006, that additional investment over a period of years of up to €235m per annum, across the education and health sectors, would be required to fully implement the EPSEN Act.

The view of my Department, at the time, was that the level of investment required could be significantly greater than that envisaged in the NCSE report. Legal advice also indicated that the EPSEN Act, as it is currently constituted, may not be implemented on a phased, or age cohort, basis.

Revised estimates of the amount of additional expenditure required to fully implement the remaining sections of the EPSEN Act, including the individual sections of the Act referred to by the Deputy, have not recently been conducted. The estimated level of additional expenditure required, to implement the outstanding sections of the Act, would have to take into account annual demographic growth and service developments in the area of special educational needs, pricing adjustments and salary cost differentials on an ongoing basis. Estimates would also have to be made as to the number of pupils who may now currently qualify for the statutory service provisions envisaged by the EPSEN Act.

The Government is committed to helping every child, particularly those with special educational needs, to fulfil their potential.

In 2021 the Department of Education and Skills will invest approximately €2 Billion in the area of special educational needs support - 1/5 of the Department's budget and up over 42% since 2011.

The Government has committed to consulting with stakeholders on how best to progress aspects of the EPSEN Act on a non-statutory basis.

A range of consultations with Education Partners and Stakeholders took place in relation to the development of a new model for allocating special education teachers over the course of 2017. The new model was introduced for all schools from September 2017.

Further consultations took place with education partners and stakeholders in the context of the undertaking of a comprehensive review of the SNA scheme and will continue in relation to the implementation of recommendations contained in this report.

Additional powers have also been provided to the National Council for Special Educational to designate a school place for a person with special educational needs, which is now provided for in the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018.

While awaiting the full implementation of the EPSEN Act, the NCSE has also published a number of policy advice papers which make recommendations aimed at developing a better or more effective alternative to the current resource allocation model, and which aims to move the system towards ultimate implementation of the EPSEN Act.

It should also be noted, however, that since EPSEN was enacted, the Department’s policy on supporting children with special educational needs has changed and evolved on foot of evidence based policy advice from the NCSE which takes account of international perspectives.

Significantly, the focus of special needs education provision has changed from a model that is diagnosis led to one which is driven by the needs of the child. This is a substantially different view to the one underlying the EPSEN Act. The levels of investment by Government in special education has increased to facilitate the underlying reforms required to implement and embed the needs based approach.

This Government will continue to prioritise investment in the area of special education support. Ongoing investment and reform will continue to see improvements made in this area.

I have also indicated that one of my priorities as Minister for Special Education and Inclusion is:

Updating our Laws: Reviewing and updating the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act.

Any review of the Act will take into account the extent of additional investment which has been made in special educational services since 2004, with some €2 Billion per year now being spent of special educational supports.

It will also take into account the range of reforms which have taken place in recent years including the development of new allocation models which are not based primarily on a response to assessment as policy advice has indicated that requirement of diagnosis can create a risk of children being diagnosed as having a special educational need for resource allocation purposes, rather than for health reasons. Also, that as there is a spectrum of ability and disability within every special education disability category, account must be taken of need, as well as diagnosis.