Priority Questions.

Middle East Peace Process.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

55 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the level of funding now being allocated to the Palestinian Authority from the European Union and by Ireland; the level of funding which was in place at the start of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19807/06]

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

59 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he will raise the plight of the Palestinian people within the European Union and United Nations; and if he will act as a peace broker in the current difficult climate. [19806/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 59 together.

The Government shares the concerns expressed about the increasingly difficult circumstances facing the Palestinian people. We have been consistently active within the European Union and United Nations in promoting a lasting, peaceful and just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This must be based on negotiations between the parties leading to a viable two-State solution. Within the Union, we advocate a policy approach aimed at ensuring that the Union remains fully engaged in the process, with a clear and balanced message for the parties.

We believe the Israeli Government and Palestinian Authority must face up to their obligations under the roadmap, and under international law. The Irish Government has continued to raise directly with the Israeli authorities its concerns over the humanitarian and economic impact of policies and activities in the occupied territories. The European Union has consistently urged the Israeli Government to end all activities in the occupied territories that are contrary to international law and that threaten the viability of a solution based on the coexistence of two States.

Following the democratic Palestinian elections in January, the European Union and the Quartet have also made it clear that the new Hamas Government of the Palestinian Authority must commit to the peace process. It must renounce violence, recognise Israel's right to exist and adhere to agreements already negotiated by the authority and the PLO. Since April, the European Union has been reviewing its assistance against the Palestinian Government's commitment to these principles.

The European Union has been the strongest supporter of the Palestinian people internationally and it is also the largest donor. For the past five years, overall assistance, including bilateral assistance from member states, has averaged some €500 million annually. This has covered humanitarian assistance and support for Palestinian institutions, NGOs and civil society, as well as contributions to the UN and other international organisations. Funding from this overall sum, which is administered by the European Commission, has amounted to an average of €250 million annually. In February, the Council approved the urgent release by the Commission of €121 million in humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. In early April, the Commission temporarily suspended direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority and it estimates that this could affect up to €126 million of projected expenditure for 2006.

The Irish Government regrets that Hamas has not yet demonstrated any significant movement towards acceptance of the peace process. While we understand the difficulty of the transition it must now make, it would be unreasonable to expect the European Union to continue its capacity-building support for the Palestinian Government irrespective of its willingness to respect the basic rules of the peace process. However, the Palestinian people should not have to face a humanitarian crisis because of the reluctance of Hamas to meet its new responsibilities. The European Union is committed to continuing necessary assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian population, and Ireland has argued strongly for the widest possible definition of those needs.

The EU has now undertaken the urgent task of developing a temporary international mechanism to channel assistance directly to the Palestinian people. As a matter of priority, it will aim to provide for basic needs, including health services. It will be essential that all international donors co-operate to ensure the effectiveness of these new structures. The European Union has also called on Israel to take action to resume the transfer of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues, which will be essential in averting a crisis in the occupied territories.

The Irish Government is committed to maintaining the level of Ireland's bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, which amounted to more than €4 million in 2005. Already this year, €1.5 million has been allocated for humanitarian assistance through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East and further allocations will be make in the near future.

The Minister of State said in his response that he is concerned about the problems in Palestine arising from the cut in aid, yet he stated that €126 million will be taken from the EU aid package in 2006, some of which sum has already been taken. I have tried to establish the facts with the Minister on a few occasions, both in the House on Europe Day and subsequently at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs. What exactly was Ireland's role in the appalling decision to cut the aid for the Palestinian Authority? This move has strengthened the hands of the extremists in Palestine and has weakened considerably the reasonable voices that were beginning to emerge within the Hamas movement.

That is right.

In the interest of justice and parliamentary transparency, will the Minister of State tell us Ireland's role in that appalling decision? He should not hide behind the cloak of consensus.

Hear, hear.

Ireland must have given an opinion at a meeting of the Council of Ministers. What is its position on the short-sighted, cruel, counter-productive decision made by the Council of Ministers? No slick talk or crocodile tears will hide the facts.

The Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, should not laugh when I am talking about a serious issue.

We had three answers on this already.

No amount of crocodile tears will hide the fact that the decision damaged the reasonable voices within the Hamas movement and the people of the Palestinian territories and ignored totally the awful acts being perpetrated on them by the Israeli Government.

I do not understand where Deputy Allen is coming from. Ireland's position on this matter has been very even-handed, fair and open at Government level, ministerial level within the Council and official level through our ambassadors and official negotiators. We want to ensure that there is fairness and equity and that both sides recognise and have mutual respect for each other.

Through our work, we want to ensure that human rights, law and order and democracy prevail, that the Hamas Government is recognised and that it in turn commits itself to total peace. On this basis, the European Commission recommended, after the change of Government and Hamas's coming to power, that there be a suspension of funds until such time as Hamas recognises its responsibilities and commits itself to the peace process. This does not mean the funding has been terminated — it has been suspended.

If agreement is not reached, there could be a loss of €126 million this year. However, Ireland has been one of the top two champions of the Palestinian people, the two-State solution and the commitment to bring peace to the region. We have worked and continue to work to ensure the existence of a new international channel to allow the funds to be directed to those who need them, namely, the Palestinian people. We are working on this very hard.

The High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, is in negotiations with all the different parties on behalf of the European Union. We fully support him and have made our position quite clear. We will continue to support the Palestinian people and want to ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered to them as rapidly as possible.

Following the recent Palestinian elections, which were open and democratic, does the Minister of State agree there appears to be a complete sea-change in the attitude of the European Union?

I ask the Minister of State to ensure the EU continues to supply the necessary assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people. We have recently seen the €121 million in aid. Will the Minister of State push this further? Surely the idea of political exclusion, in all conflicts around the world, will not work in this case. While he talks about suspension of funds, he should keep in mind that political exclusion for a people and a nation will not work in any conflict resolution process. Will the Minister of State say how much humanitarian aid Ireland has given in 2006 and update the House on these allocations?

I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy and his colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to support the rights of the Palestinian people on the international stage, at EU and United Nations levels, and to give them maximum support and assistance, while acting as peacebroker with those states that seem to be hostile to the Palestinian people.

Ireland has acted as an honest broker at all levels, internationally within the UN and with our colleagues in the European Union. Ireland is recognised as one of the champions of this whole situation in trying to bring about fairness, equity and respect for everybody's position to achieve a two-state solution. We have fought trenchantly to ensure, at all levels, that the 1967 territorial position is accepted and recognised and that the Palestinian people are given that option. There is now a change of Government, as has been said, and we recognise that. We accept the wisdom of the international community, including that of the European Union, that it is critically important for the new Government to commit itself to the peace process.

As late as yesterday, the High Representative of the Palestinian people in this country thanked the Government publicly for its contribution. Ireland is one of only two member states in the European Union which commits, domestically, each year to support Palestinian missions here, as does Finland. In addition, we provided €4 million in humanitarian aid last year and there is a similar commitment this year. We are working assiduously to find a funnel, a channel, an opportunity, a vehicle that is very structured and that guarantees the transfer of resources from the Union directly to the Palestinian people. That is not simple, it is complex and it has to be done on a clear, transparent basis, protecting the donor's position, supporting humanitarian requirements and ultimately ensuring that it achieves the political impact that is critical to the future of the entire region.

Nuclear Disarmament Initiative.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

56 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position Ireland proposes to take as a member of the nuclear suppliers group in relation to the implementation of the recent proposed US agreement with India on nuclear capacity; and his views on the implications of this proposal for the future of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the perceived inconsistency between this proposal and the US and European Union response to recent events in Iran. [19803/06]

The 45 participating countries of the nuclear suppliers group, NSG, including Ireland, have agreed guidelines governing the export of items that are specially designed or prepared for nuclear use and for nuclear related dual-use items and technologies. Under these guidelines the export of such items to India is prohibited. The US-India agreement on civil nuclear co-operation was reached on 2 March 2006 between President Bush and Prime Minister Singh during the former's visit to India. Under the agreement, India has agreed,inter alia, to identify and separate civilian and military nuclear facilities and programmes and to file a declaration regarding its civilian facilities with the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. India has agreed to classify 14 of its 22 nuclear power reactors as civilian facilities and voluntarily to place these under IAEA safeguards.

We are currently analysing the details of the agreement both within the European Union and bilaterally with like-minded countries. The agreement is a complex one on which we have yet to reach a final considered judgment. We wish to assess carefully all its elements and all its wider implications. Within the NSG, in particular, it will be important for Ireland to act in concert with like-minded partners.

There have been expressions of support from some countries and the Director General of the IAEA, Dr. El Baradei, has also welcomed the deal.

We have genuine concerns about what is envisaged. For Ireland, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT, remains the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime. The treaty is the most universal of all the international instruments in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation and we will continue to press for the universalisation of the NPT and for India's accession to it without conditions. In official level discussion, we have been active in raising many of the difficult questions to which the agreement gives rise.

Before the US-India agreement can be implemented, the US Congress will have to approve an amendment to US law. The Bush Administration has recently submitted such a proposal and hearings in Congress on the matter are under way. The hearings in the House of Representatives and the Senate will provide further opportunity for additional clarification which will assist our analysis. It would be preferable to await the outcome of deliberations in the US Congress before taking a final decision within the NSG. Moreover, the approaches taken by a range of key international partners will also be crucial in determining the NSG's course of action.

The US-India agreement certainly adds a further complication of discussion on the Iranian nuclear programme. At the same time, the two situations are distinct. Iran is a member of the NPT which has repeatedly failed to comply with its safeguards obligations and to take the steps required of it by the IAEA and the UN Security Council.

The Minister of State is somebody for whom I have respect so what I have to say is in no sense personal. However, this is an entirely misleading presentation not the situation. On Friday, there will be a meeting in Rio of the nuclear suppliers group, otherwise known since 1977 as the Club of London. Ireland will be called upon to make up its mind. It will have an opportunity at that meeting, because decisions are taken by way of consensus, to block this agreement.

From what the Minister of State has just said, I put it to him that he is proposing to agree to allow India the same regime as the existing five nuclear powers, France, Britain, China, the United States and Russia. These five nuclear powers have a regime which allows them to nominate certain installations for examination. This is precisely what is on offer to India and it is a stab in the back for the NPT, which the Minister of State correctly describes as one of the most important treaties and which should be aimed at universalisation.

I put it to the Minister of State that what is on offer from India is not membership of the NPT. Will the Minister of State not agree that India does not accept the disciplines of the NPT? Ireland, as a member of the Club of London, where decisions are taken by consensus, is required to vote. Where decisions, which Ireland can block, are taken by consensus, the disciplines are called full scope safeguards. I put it to the Minister of State, then, that to allow the agreement to come into being is the greatest destruction of the NPT that could possibly happen. I also put it to him that it is gross hypocrisy to say that Iran has departed from the safeguard disciplines when Ireland is about to allow a country with no membership of the NPT and no requirement of any discipline whatsoever to agree something that is much lesser.

What Dr. El Baradei has agreed to is not the principle of the agreement, but the concession that has been offered to India, which will allow it to join the five nuclear powers with the same loose arrangement, little less than that. It is a scandalous contradiction of the position taken by Ireland in New York at the New Agenda, when it is widely recognised to be one of the author countries of the NPT. To allow a new country to join five others which have not observed the disciplines of Article 6, to become a new threat, next door to Pakistan, will be the single biggest betrayal of the NPT. To suggest that the NPT can survive after this is quite ridiculous and scandalous. I repeat that the meeting is on Friday, 26 May, in two days' time. To suggest that it is under consideration is misleading this House. By now the Minister of State should know what he should do — I know what the Irish people would want him to do.

Alas, I never intended, nor would I ever attempt, to mislead this House. I will give the House the facts as they are. As this matter evolves there is still a long lead-in time before we reach——

No, that is presumption. There is still a long lead-in time in this situation.

How will the Minister of State vote at the meeting? Will he refuse to deliver at the Rio meeting on Friday? That is a straight question.

I did not interrupt the Deputy. As I made clear, this is a complex matter which we are still analysing. Many aspects of it demand serious and rigorous analysis and not all the details of what precisely is involved are clear.

That is clear.

This is the case, for example, with regard to the safeguards agreement that India has yet to negotiate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Our final view will depend——

It is outside the treaty; it is joining China.

——on our assessment of the potential impact of the US-India agreement on the global non-proliferation regime and on the approach taken by like-minded countries.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins is right. We are proud of our contribution to the genesis of the non-proliferation treaty which the late Deputy Frank Aiken, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, championed across the world. It was universally accepted and was a major contribution to global peace and stability at the time. Ireland has great regard for this precious instrument which is critically important to the world.

How will the Minister vote? Will he vote in favour of the treaty or of giving Indiacarte blanche to join China, Russia, France and Britain?

The Nuclear Suppliers Group, NSG, normally takes decisions at the group's annual plenary meeting, the next of which will take place in Brazil next week.

No, in two days' time.

We have been told next week. This matter was discussed twice within the NSG, in October and March — I understand there is an international meeting on the issue in London today — when delegations raised several questions and concerns. It is clear that in Brazil there will be another discussion of the US proposal to exempt India from the NSG guidelines. Our current sense is that delegations are unlikely to be in a position to make a decision. It will not be possible. Some made clear in previous discussions that they wished to await the outcome of the ongoing deliberations in the US Congress before deciding within the NSG. That is also our preference. We await that debate. There is no guarantee that this will get a conclusion——

Why must we await the US debate? Can the Minister of State not make up his mind? Is he in favour of the Indian exception?

We are clear on our position. We fully support the non-proliferation treaty and will continue to do so. Our preference is to await the legislative conclusions. If they do not arise, this does not arise. We cannot pre-empt the outcome of the legislative debate.

The Minister of State could handle the legislative debate by saying he is not in favour of the exception.

There is also a possibility of seeking an extraordinary plenary meeting in the coming months. The US has indicated that it may wish to do so, but it is too early to speculate on the timing of such a meeting. We are only on a lead-in time. There will be node facto conclusions as we enter debate.

Pussycat diplomacy.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

57 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions he has had with the British Government on violent sectarian attacks in the Six Counties, including the recent murder of Michael McIlveen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19805/06]

The appalling sectarian killing of Michael McIlveen has been condemned wholeheartedly by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, as well as by the entire community in Northern Ireland. This incident was a truly shocking demonstration of the evil of sectarianism and a reminder that sectarian hatred and violence still plague communities across Northern Ireland. Our thoughts continue to be with his family and friends who have shown such courage and dignity in the face of this tragedy.

As the Taoiseach said in the immediate aftermath of Michael's death, those responsible for this brutal crime stand condemned in the eyes of all decent people who yearn for a peaceful society in Northern Ireland. They must face the full rigours of the law as quickly as possible.

This horrific incident is the latest in a worrying pattern of sectarian attacks in parts of Northern Ireland in recent years. In the context of ongoing sectarian violence last summer, the Government raised concerns about the situation with the British authorities on a regular basis. Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs visited the areas most seriously affected throughout the summer months to meet local residents, community and political representatives. The Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, travelled to west Belfast and north Antrim to meet residents who had been subjected to intimidation or attacks and to discuss the ongoing situation with them. He also met another group of residents who travelled to Dublin to convey their concerns to him directly. The issue of sectarianism and sectarian violence has been and remains a priority item on the agenda of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

At their meetings with the Minister, local residents in particular sought assurances that sufficient police resources would be deployed to counter these attacks. We have raised this concern with the British authorities. We continue to monitor police resources in the areas most directly affected.

Following the tragic death of MichaelMcIlveen, we raised our serious concerns about the security situation in the Ballymena area with the British authorities, especially with regard to the threat of further violence. We also inquired about the measures put in place to prevent a recurrence of the violence and intimidation witnessed last summer. We have been advised that a number of additional officers and patrols are being deployed in Ballymena to combat sectarian violence. In addition, an intelligence-led police operation, initiated in 2005 to tackle sectarian crime, is ongoing. Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs met local political representatives in Ballymena in the past week to assess the situation at first hand. We will continue to monitor the situation closely as we approach the summer.

However, this is not solely a governmental concern. Clearly, all those in positions of leadership in Northern Ireland have a major role to play in eradicating sectarianism. It is vitally important that all incidents of sectarian violence be condemned consistently, unequivocally and unambiguously by every political party in Northern Ireland. Leaders must condemn sectarian attitudes and actions that can poison minds and create an atmosphere where violence becomes possible. Above all, leaders should work to reduce tensions and promote reconciliation.

Will the Minister, the Taoiseach and Government officials remind the DUP in particular of its responsibility to tackle the sectarianism rampant in the communities it represents and within the party? An illustration of that sectarianism is the disgraceful comment by Ballymena Council leader, DUP councillor Roy Gillespie, before Michael McIlveen's funeral. He said:

The Pope is the Antichrist and the head of the Catholic church, which is not a true church or faith. As a Catholic, Michael McIlveen won't get into heaven unless he is saved. Catholics are not acceptable in heaven.

Does the Minister of State agree that the killing of Michael McIlveen in Ballymena did not happen in isolation? Last summer I circulated a dossier to Deputies with facts on more than 100 sectarian attacks by Unionist paramilitaries on Catholic Nationalists during last summer. The Minister of State alluded to the actions taken by the Government in that regard.

In the wake of this killing, will the Government explore with the British Government ways of increasing the resources available for projects which bring young people together in a spirit of anti-sectarianism, such as those who came together at the funeral of Michael McIlveen? Does the Minister of State share the view that this type of killing is at the end of the scale that begins with the refusal of political Unionism to engage with Nationalists and republicans on the basis of respect and equality, as promised under the Good Friday Agreement?

I condemn statements such as that to which the Deputy referred. It is important not to give any credibility or recognition to such outrageous and outlandish statements. It is important not to make provocative statements or organise provocative events or parades that incite tension and lead to violence. On behalf of the people, we constantly appeal to both sides to accept the rights of the other, to have mutual respect for each other, to work to bring peace to their communities, to use the political process within the various fora to which people are elected to give leadership, and to co-operate and collaborate in the best interest of a consensual conclusion that will contribute to positive advantage for each individual and for all of the people in Northern Ireland. That is our consistent position.

We have raised these issues with the Northern Ireland Office and the British Government. We continue to meet the people, represent their views and articulate their problems. We work assiduously at this. We want every political party in Northern Ireland to work with us to ensure we bring an end to the sectarian attitude, tension and violence that must always be condemned by all quarters.

Will the Department ask the DUP directly through its officials when negotiations are held to address the sectarianism within the party and the communities it represents?

At every opportunity and at the various levels of the meetings and strands we attend the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I raise these issues. The high levels of criminality and violence on the loyalist side continue to cause genuine concern. In its most recent report, the Independent Monitoring Commission noted that loyalists were responsible for 95% of shootings and 76% of assaults in the period under review, with the remainder being carried out by dissident republicans. Most cases of exiling were also carried out by loyalist paramilitaries. Tackling loyalist violence and criminality are, first and foremost, the responsibility of the criminal justice agencies in Northern Ireland, primarily the PSNI and the Assets Recovery Agency.

The two Governments have been absolutely clear on the need for loyalist paramilitary groups to move away definitely from violence and criminality and to engage with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning with a view to putting arms beyond use. At the previous meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 2 May last, the Governments again called on all those with influence in this regard to use it to that end. The Governments will continue their work in this respect.

We all have a serious responsibility in this area. We can conquer this problem together if there is mutual respect, dialogue, communication and collaboration within the structures at local community level or within the political system. We need to work assiduously within the structures which exist to create a permanent structure in Northern Ireland that will allow the affairs of the people who live there to be decided by their own representatives. We must all work to ensure that we meet this serious challenge.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

58 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of principal development specialists, senior development specialists and development specialists working with Irish Aid who have volunteered to decentralise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19809/06]

Three categories of specialists — principal development specialists, senior development specialists and development specialists — are employed by Irish Aid. None of the three principal development specialists who serve in Irish Aid's headquarters in Dublin has applied to decentralise to Limerick. None of the 12 senior development specialists who work in Irish Aid's headquarters has applied to decentralise to Limerick. Two senior development specialists originally applied to decentralise to Limerick, but subsequently withdrew their applications. Five of the nine development specialists who work in Irish Aid's headquarters are scheduled to decentralise to Limerick. Four of the five development specialists in question commenced employment since the announcement of the decentralisation programme in December 2003. One of them applied via the central applications facility. Discussions are ongoing with representatives of the specialists, their union IMPACT and the Department of Finance about the issues involved in decentralisation, which have a wider Civil Service dimension. I hope that a greater number of specialists will, in time, volunteer to decentralise to Limerick.

Can the Minister of State tell me how many of the 123 staff of Development Co-operation Ireland have indicated their willingness to decentralise? I ask him to state the number clearly without trying to mask the problems which exist. According to the Minister of State's figures, 28 of the 123 staff had applied to participate in the decentralisation programme by December 2005. That figure had decreased to 24 by January 2006. The Minister of State has now told us that none of the senior development specialists is prepared to go ahead with decentralisation. Some of those who had indicated a willingness to decentralise have now withdrawn their applications.

Does the Minister of State agree that, based on his own figures, he is presiding over a disastrous move for Irish Aid? Does he agree that rather than advancing the process, it is being reversed? It is shambolic and it is putting the effective delivery of the Irish aid programme at grave risk. Will the Minister of State admit that the decision to proceed with decentralisation without consulting staff or taking the intellectual memory of Irish Aid or the implications for the overseas programme into consideration was an appalling one? Will the Minister of State give the House some clearcut figures? How many of the 123 staff of Development Co-operation Ireland, or Irish Aid as it is now known, have indicated their willingness to move?

I do not intend to lose my patience at this point, obviously, as I have to answer the questions I am asked in this House. I have answered the Deputy's question on no less than four occasions, most recently at a Dáil committee when I gave precise figures to him. His repeated questioning belies the attempts which have been made by this House to provide researchers——

The Minister of State should not give us that rubbish.

——for Dáil Deputies, including Front Bench spokespersons. It seems Deputy Allen cannot simply collate the figures I gave him last week.

The Minister of State should give us the figures.

Perhaps he has some difficulty——

He is trying to brazen out this disaster.

——or terrible problem of memory.

I have no problem at all.

It is clear that he cannot remember the figures I gave him last week.

I want the figures to be put on the record of this House.

The Deputy referred to the protection of corporate memory, but I suggest that he should try to find a way of protecting his own memory. I gave him these figures last week at a committee meeting.

Will the Leas-Cheann Comhairle ask the Minister of State not to personalise his response?

It is clear the Deputy does not do his research or take any note of the responses he gets.

The Minister of State should give us the figures we are looking for. He should stop blackguarding this House with a load of rubbish.

He has made some totally groundless assertions in this House about the nature of the decentralisation programme.

How many of the 123 staff of Irish Aid——

I will give the Deputy the figures yet again, not so much for his benefit——

How many?

——as I have already given him this information, but for the benefit of other Deputies who may not have asked the question or been given an answer.

How many?

Deputy Allen was given these figures last week.

The Minister of State should give us the figures for the record of the House.

It is a most vexatious strategy on the Deputy's part and on the part of Fine Gael. The Deputy was given these figures last week but he has forgotten them again. It does not give me great hope for the kind of Government that Fine Gael is trying to form with the Labour Party that Deputies are forgetting the figures they were given a week ago.

The Minister of State should not give us that rubbish.

I will give the figures again. Deputy Allen referred to Development Co-operation Ireland——

I referred to Irish Aid.

——but I remind him that it no longer exists. It is called Irish Aid, but the Deputy referred to Development Co-operation Ireland.

I referred to Irish Aid.

Perhaps his memory is failing him in that respect as well.

The Minister of State should not be acting the——

I have given the figures today and I will give them again now because the Deputy did not hear me last week or on the two previous occasions. Some 35 people within the development co-operation division, or Irish Aid as it is now called, have opted to go to Limerick.

That is less than 25%.

Some 35 people are willing to move.

That is approximately 25%.

A further 16 people have opted to apply for positions in Limerick.

On a point of order, this question was not originally deemed to be a Priority Question.

That is not a point of order.

It was deemed to be a Priority Question when the Minister for Foreign Affairs refused to answer a question on human trafficking.

That is not a point of order.

That is why this question was substituted at a late moment. The Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, refused to answer questions about human trafficking.

The Deputy is hardly blaming me for Fine Gael's lack of imagination——

That is why this question is in there.

——in coming up with new questions.

The Minister of State should not give us that old rubbish.

It is not rubbish.

The Minister of State is trying to brazen out——

It is a very truthful assertion.

——a disastrous programme of decentralisation——

The Deputy is so bankrupt as an Opposition spokesman that he cannot come up with a new question.

——involving Development Co-operation Ireland.

He is wasting taxpayers' money.

The Minister of State is behaving disgracefully.

These are very expensive questions to put down on the Order Paper.

I will put down questions when I want to.

It takes many civil servants to answer them. The Deputy asked the same question last week that he is asking this week.

I want to get answers.

He is wasting taxpayers' money, which is something he is always accusing the Government of doing. He is a perfect example of it.

The Government is wasting money.

He asked the same questions last week and got the same answers.

What about the purchase of a property for decentralisation?

The same answers were honestly offered by me to the Deputy at a meeting of a Dáil committee. He just wants to waste taxpayers' money by repeating the question all the time.

Just 35 of the 123 workers want to move.

I will repeat the answer in case the Deputy's memory is deficient.

Thirty-five.

Expressions of interest in decentralisation have been submitted by 35 workers in Irish Aid and 16 workers in the wider Department of Foreign Affairs, of which Irish Aid is a fully integrated part.

All the senior staff have reversed their decisions.

The performance of Irish Aid in the decentralisation process, far from being a failure, is far better than any other Department of State. We have fulfilled 41%——

Can I ask a supplementary question?

I will repeat the figure for the Deputy because he is either hard of hearing or hard of memory. Some 41% of the staff requirement needed in Limerick has now been fulfilled.

Just 35 workers want to move.

By any yardstick, Irish Aid is performing far better than other Departments which are choosing to decentralise to other locations. I have given the Deputy an answer. I hope he will not ask the same question again on the next occasion.

Can the Minister of State, whose behaviour has been disgraceful, tell the House——

It is Deputy Allen who is wasting taxpayer's money.

I would like to be allowed to ask my supplementary question. Is the Minister of State telling me that the programme of decentralisation has been successful in respect of the development co-operation section, given that its three most senior staff members are not moving? None of the 12 senior development specialists is moving to Limerick. I understand from the Minister of State's figures that none of the development specialists is moving. Is that correct?

There will be plenty of opportunities for promotion there.

How much money has been spent on the decentralisation of the development co-operation unit to date? What property has been purchased or rented? Can the Minister of State provide such details, which he could not offer the last day, because the House deserves to be given them?

The Deputy is speaking with a forked tongue again. I gave him an answer in this regard in the committee last week.

The Minister of State gave a very general answer with no detail. Answer the bloody question.

The Deputy is again showing either a deficiency in his own research capabilities or in his memory.

I have my own research capabilities.

It is one or the other.

The figures are here to demonstrate the abject failure on the Government's part.

The Deputy can tell the House and the taxpayers why——

There has been a total failure.

——he is wasting taxpayers' time, money and effort in this House.

I have explained why this question was submitted.

He is asking questions which have already been answered.

I make no apologies for it.

The Deputy knows the answer.

The Minister refused to answer questions on human trafficking.

The Deputy knows the answer already because he was given it last week. Perhaps he left the committee but to my memory, which is not perfect, the Deputy was present throughout the meeting and heard the answers I gave on this matter. I will say again, for the benefit of the Deputy, who is well aware of the answer I gave to Question No. 11 a minute ago, there are 12 senior development specialists in Irish Aid headquarters. None of them has applied to decentralise to Limerick. Three principal development specialists serve in Irish Aid headquarters, none of whom has applied to decentralise to Limerick. In total, there are 44 development specialists within the Department, both at home and abroad——

I asked the question in respect of people within the Irish Aid organisation.

A total of 24 were in headquarters. Such people continue to work for Irish Aid when working in Africa.

That concludes Priority Questions. The House will now move onto the other questions.

They do not cease to be members of Irish Aid when they travel to Africa.

This constitutes a complete failure. The Minister of State is a complete failure.

That is how the Department delivers aid.

The Minister of State is simply trying to waffle.

Priority Questions have concluded.

Perhaps the Deputy will visit them some day.

The Minister of State is a disgrace.

Priority Questions have concluded and I am calling for the response to Question No. 60.

The Deputy is a complete waste of money.

The Minister of State's programme is a disgrace and a total failure. He is abusing a privilege of this House.

Question No. 59 answered with QuestionNo. 55.