Defence Forces Medicinal Products

Ceisteanna (122)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

122. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that more than 3,000 serving Army personnel and veterans who were prescribed Lariam have approached one law firm (details supplied) in the UK with a view to taking cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4724/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

It would not be appropriate for me to comment in relation to litigation matters arising in another jurisdiction.

Defence Forces Operations

Ceisteanna (123)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

123. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans for the Defence Forces in counties Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal in view of Brexit and the possible reintroduction of a hard border; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4740/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

As part of a whole of Government approach, my Department is engaged in forward planning with the other Departments involved in addressing all issues relevant to the UK decision to leave the EU.

The progress made towards the end of last year, as part of the first phase of the Brexit negotiations, offers encouragement in relation to border issues where a significant commitment was made to avoid a hard border.

The UK decision to exit the EU does not of itself give rise to additional border control requirements at this time. Furthermore, primary responsibility for the internal security of the State rests with the Minister for Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána. Responsibility for the security aspect of border control rests with An Garda Síochána while the Revenue Commissioners also have responsibilities relating to their particular mandate.

Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of Aid to the Civil Power which, in practice, means to provide assistance and support to An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. The Defence Forces also provide support to the Revenue Commissioners, again when requested to do so.

There is ongoing close liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces regarding security matters and regular coordination and liaison meetings take place. My Department will continue to monitor the ongoing situation to ensure that both it and the Defence Forces are fully prepared to address any potential issues that might arise in the defence area as a consequence of Brexit.

Ministerial Advisers Data

Ceisteanna (124)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

124. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the names of advisers he has appointed to his office since becoming Minister; the responsibilities of each; the previous employment of each; the salaries of each; and if he plans to make further appointments. [4865/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The following are details of the advisers appointed by me in my capacity as Minister of State with Responsibility for Defence.

Name

Date of Appointment

Salary

Special Adviser

John Coughlan

6 May 2016 to date

€84,973 - €104,507

Press Adviser

Clare Mungovan

18 May 2016 - 7 January 2018

€84,973 - €104,507

Neither was employed in a Government Department immediately prior to their appointment as my advisers.

These are the only advisers appointed by me in the period since 6 May 2016.

I expect to appoint a replacement press adviser in the near future.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (125)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

125. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the contract awarded for the supply of the passport card; the name of the contract; the company to which it was awarded; the date it was awarded; the length of the contract; the cost of the contract; and if it was tendered. [4767/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for issuing Irish passports and all connected matters.

At both EU and national levels, public procurement is governed by a comprehensive regulatory and policy framework. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade adheres to the principle of competitive tendering in respect of its contracting for services, supplies and works. The applicable law and guidance is set out in the Public Sector Procurement Regulations published in 2016 under S.I. 284 of 2016, which implemented the European Directive (2014/18/EC) as well as the Circulars and Guidelines issued by Government. Implementation of these policies and principles ensures the Department gets best value for money and ensures that in general, a competitive process is carried out in an open, objective and transparent manner. The Department is also required to use central Government frameworks when available.

The contract for the provision of Irish passport booklets and other travel documents for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was awarded to DLRS Group, following a competitive tendering process conducted in 2012-2013.

Given the contract value and specialist service requirement, a restricted two stage process was openly published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). The initial requirement sought a response to a pre-qualification questionnaire from the open market regarding financial and technical capacity and applying a set selection criteria. Following evaluation, eleven Tenderers qualified under the pre-qualification questionnaire selection criteria and were invited to submit a full tender proposal to meet the requirement. These tenders were assessed against the weighted award criteria issued to invitees in advance of evaluation. The contract was awarded to the highest scoring Tenderer under the most economically advantageous tender method having regard to the contract award criteria set out in the Tender Notice.

The contract with DLRS Group was signed on 16 January 2014 (“Agreement relating to the supply of goods pursuant to request for tenders for the provision of Irish Passport Booklets”).

The contract is for an initial five year period, with an option to extend the contract on an annual basis for a maximum of two further years.

To allow for introduction of the Passport Card in October 2015 - and in keeping with the provision in the original contract foreseeing provision of other travel documents, including cards, in addition to passport books - a contract change request was agreed and signed with DLRS on 16 January 2015 for production of the Passport Card (“Irish Passport Card, Change Proposal December 2014”).

The term of the contract is for the duration of the Passport Booklet contract. The cost of the contract for the production of the passport card is in the region of €1.5 million annually.

Brexit Negotiations

Ceisteanna (126, 127)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

126. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has spoken to EU leaders at or since the last European Council meeting about the length of time for the transition phase for the UK following March 2019; and if Ireland's request for a five-year transition period will be considered or reached. [4557/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

127. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has met with his officials to discuss phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations. [4558/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 127 together.

Based on the additional Guidelines on the Article 50 negotiations adopted by the European Council on 15 December 2017, work during phase 2 of the negotiations will initially focus on three areas: completing work on the withdrawal issues and on drafting the Withdrawal Agreement; transitional arrangements; and preparatory work for discussions on the future EU-UK relationship, which it is hoped can start in the spring.

Work at EU level on all three of these distinct areas has been proceeding at official level through the relevant preparatory bodies in Brussels. I have scheduled weekly meetings with my officials, and often discuss the issues with them between those meetings, and am in any case kept continually updated of issues as they develop.

At a political level, EU27 Ministers met at the General Affairs Council (Art. 50) on 29 January. I was unable to travel on account of other pressing business and Ireland was represented by the Minister of State, Helen McEntee. Michel Barnier updated Ministers on the overall state of play of negotiations and Ministers also adopted supplementary negotiating directives, mandating the European Commission Taskforce to open negotiations with the UK on a transitional arrangement.

I welcome that the EU is proposing a status quo transitional arrangement after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. Such an arrangement will provide certainty and limit disruption for our citizens and businesses. Under such an arrangement the UK will be expected to continue to apply the full EU acquis.

As concerns the duration of such a transition, the Government agrees that in the interests of long term certainty, and to accelerate agreement on the future relationship agreement, it must be time bound. This is the overall view of both the EU and of the UK. Therefore a date of 31 December 2020 has been set for the end of the transition period. But equally, as the negotiations progress, the overriding objective on both sides must be to avoid any gaps and any cliff edge effects. It is therefore welcome that the General Affairs Council agreed to keep the Directives in all their aspects under constant review, taking account of developments in the Brexit negotiations. This provides the flexibility required.

Ministerial Advisers Data

Ceisteanna (128)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

128. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the names of advisers he has appointed to his office since becoming Minister; the responsibilities of each; the previous employment of each; the salaries of each; and if he plans to make further appointments. [4869/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

There are currently four Special Advisers employed by my Department.

There are three Special Advisers to the Tánaiste:

Ms Caitríona Fitzpatrick is my Special Adviser and Political Director. She was previously a Special Adviser in my role as Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.

Mr. Matthew Lynch is my Special Adviser on Cabinet, Oireachtas and Leaders' Questions. He was previously in the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation as Special Adviser to Ms Frances Fitzgerald TD in her then role as Tánaiste.

Mr. Chris Donoghue is my Special Adviser and Communications Director. He was previously employed as Political Editor of the Communicorp group of radio stations and before that as a presenter on Newstalk.

The Special Adviser to the Minister of State for European Affairs is Mr. Paul Fox, who was previously employed as a Client Manager with PR 360 and before that as Adviser to Mr. Paudie Coffey TD at the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government.

The Special Advisers to the Tánaiste are on the Principal Officer salary scale. The Special Adviser to the Minister of State for European Affairs is on the Assistant Principal Officer salary scale.

All of these appointments were made in line with “Instructions to Personnel Officers - Ministerial Appointments for the 32nd Dáil” which included “Guidelines on staffing of Ministerial offices” issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I do not have plans to appoint additional special advisers at this time.

Tender Process

Ceisteanna (129)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

129. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the estimated cost of the recently announced Citizens' Dialogue on the Future of Europe meetings; the public tendering process that was put in place to manage these meetings; the company that was awarded the tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4878/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The reflection process launched by EU leaders in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the EU focused increased attention on the future direction of the European Union. Feeding into this process, the European Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe published last March and the Leaders' Agenda adopted by the European Council last October have prompted a debate across Member States on the future of Europe.

The Government is committed to contributing to the debate and ensuring greater engagement with the public around the future of Europe. To this end, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, and I, along with the Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee TD, launched a Citizens’ dialogue on the Future of Europe on 15 November last.

It is essential that the EU addresses the key concerns of its citizens and the aim of the Government’s Future of Europe initiative is to promote a meaningful debate on the future direction of the EU and at the same time to promote better awareness of the EU, its role, values and achievements.

Minister of State McEntee is leading this process and has participated in a number of engagements already and recently announced a schedule for the Future of Europe Citizens' Dialogues. The purpose of these dialogues is to engage with citizens to hear their views, opinions and insights about the European Union so that we can help to shape a better Europe for all. This will be primarily a listening exercise, focussed on the needs and concerns of our citizens. We do not want to be prescriptive and we want to draw on these sessions to help formulate our contribution to the broader European debate. I would encourage everyone to get involved.

Dialogue events will be held in Galway on 8 February, Cork on 22 February, Donegal on 8 March and Meath on 19th April. They will conclude on 9 May next (Europe Day) with an event in Dublin. The cost of each meeting is estimated at approx. €10,000. This was not the subject of a tender process as European Movement Ireland, which is our partner in organising the Dialogues, is in receipt of ongoing funding from the Department.

The grant of €250,000 annually for three years to EMI from my Department is to carry out work on the basis of a proposal it submitted, which includes an extensive programme of work on communications and outreach activities including these Citizens Dialogues.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (130)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

130. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has made recent diplomatic representations to the Saudi Arabian State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nizar bin Obaid Madani, regarding the humanitarian situation in Yemen; and the status of the proceedings of the core group established at the Human Rights Council in September 2017 set up to establish the facts of violations of human rights on the ground. [4922/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am extremely concerned about the current situation in Yemen, which is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. The war has now been ongoing for over one thousand days, and has had devastating consequences for civilians, with allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and significant loss of life.

I have not met with any Saudi Ministerial counterparts since taking up my role as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade last year. However, my predecessor, Minister Flanagan, raised concerns about the conduct of the war in Yemen and the humanitarian impact with Ministerial counterparts in Saudi Arabia and UAE on a number of occasions. More recently, officials from my Department met with the Saudi Embassy in Dublin late last year, and passed on my strong concerns in relation to humanitarian access. There have also been EU contacts with Saudi Arabia on this issue. At the Foreign Affairs Council on 11 December, I urged stronger EU action on humanitarian access in Yemen, and I will continue to raise these concerns with all appropriate interlocutors whenever opportunities arise.

At the Human Rights Council in September 2017, Ireland was part of a small core group of countries that drove forward the adoption by consensus of a Resolution on Yemen. This Resolution established a group of eminent international and regional experts to carry out a comprehensive investigation of all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights since September 2014. In December 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced the names and appointment of its members. The Group is expected to travel to Yemen soon and, as per the Resolution, will report back to the Human Rights Council in September of this year on its findings. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my full support for the work of the Eminent Experts, and my commitment to ensuring accountability for all violations and abuses that have taken place in Yemen.

Ireland has also provided over €11 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen since 2015, and we are committed to maintaining support. Furthermore, the EU is the largest humanitarian donor to Yemen and has provided over €170 million in aid since the conflict began, to which Ireland contributes via the EU Development Budget. I believe that the only way to bring about a long-term sustainable improvement in the situation for the Yemeni people is through a negotiated end to this conflict, and Ireland fully supports UN efforts in this regard.