Defence Forces Strength

Ceisteanna (167)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

167. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which membership of the local Defence Forces continues to be maintained at a required level; the extent to which ongoing training standards and requirements are met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13116/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The White Paper on Defence provides for a combined establishment of 4,169 personnel for the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve (inclusive of the proposal to increase the Naval Service Reserve establishment from 200 to 300 personnel). I am aware of the shortfall between this figure and the current combined strength of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve which, as of 31 January 2018, is 1,777 effective personnel. However, given the competing recruitment demands at present, where PDF recruitment is and should remain a priority, recruitment to the Reserve is continuing. A total of 139 new recruits were inducted into the RDF in 2017 and there is on-going engagement with applicants from the 2017 recruitment campaign that should yield further inductions. In addition a new recruitment campaign will be launched in 2018.

In terms of ongoing training standards for the Reserve, the White Paper sets out a developmental path for the organisation. On a day to day basis, the Reserve undertakes training in preparation to assist the PDF, when required. Training procedures are constantly reviewed in order to ensure that the men and women of the RDF can meet the roles assigned.

I would like to assure the Deputy that I remain committed to the ongoing development of the RDF within the framework set out in the White Paper on Defence

Ministerial Staff Data

Ceisteanna (168)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

168. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of each non-Civil Service appointment he has made to a role in his Department; the persons appointed; the role, qualifications and salary of each; and the guidelines that apply in respect of party political fundraising. [13156/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Since becoming Minister for Defence, I have made no non-civil service appointments to my Department.

Two Special Advisers were recruited directly and are classed as unestablished Civil Servants.  The provisions of Paragraphs 5.1 and 5.2 of the code of Conduct for Civil Servants concerning restrictions on political activity, do not apply to holders of such roles.

Civilian employees are also recruited by my Department on an ongoing basis and are employed at various military installations throughout the country to support the Defence Forces in tasks such as the upkeep and maintenance of military infrastructure and equipment. The grades are spread across a wide spectrum and also include specialists such as healthcare professionals and technicians.  Appointments are made following open competition and with the approval of the Minister.

Ministerial Staff Data

Ceisteanna (169)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

169. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of each non-Civil Service appointment he has made to a role in his Department; the persons appointed; the role, qualifications and salary of each; and the guidelines that apply in respect of party political fundraising. [13160/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

There are a number of categories of staff in my Department who work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and who are not established civil servants. They are Special Advisors, civilian drivers, local staff overseas and temporary Clerical Officers.

I have appointed four Special Advisers in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

- 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 Leader’s Questions. He was previously in the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation as Special Advisor 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.

My Special Advisers 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.

In addition, I have appointed four civilian drivers to the Department who work with the Ministers of State. Civilian drivers are paid €650.92 per week.

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.

Every appointment in my Department is subject to the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour.

Passport Applications

Ceisteanna (170)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

170. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a person who is travelling in over three weeks time can book an appointment with the Passport Office regarding a first-time passport application for an infant; and if this application will be processed. [13199/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Passport Service operates a counter service in both the Dublin (Mount Street) and Cork offices where applicants who need their passport application processed in timeframes shorter than those offered by the Passport Express and the online passport application service can be accommodated. While priority is given to applicants who need their passport issued within these timeframes there are a limited number of appointments for those travelling in more than three weeks. Counter appointments can be booked online at www.passportappointments.ie.

Applications must be compliant with the Passports Act, 2008. Detailed information regarding passport application requirements and the various application channels available can be found on the Passport Service’s website www.DFA.ie/passport.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Ceisteanna (171)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

171. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if proposals have been put recently to the United States Administration in relation to immigration reform with particular reference to the undocumented Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13216/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Government continues to attach a high priority to achieving a solution for the undocumented Irish living in the United States.

The Taoiseach visited Washington, D.C., from 13 to 16 March, on the occasion of St Patrick’s Day and had the opportunity to meet with the President, the Vice-President, Speaker Ryan, and the members of the Congressional Friends of Ireland group. He raised the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States and underlined the Government’s ongoing interest in seeking a resolution to their plight.

I also raised the issue when I visited Washington, D.C., last month and our Embassy in Washington, D.C., remains very active in pursuing a solution.

The Embassy is in ongoing contact with representatives of the Administration and with contacts from both sides on Capitol Hill.

The Embassy is also working closely with and assisting Deputy John Deasy in his role as the Government’s Special Envoy to Congress on the Undocumented.

The Government will continue to explore all options with a view to finding a workable solution to this longstanding issue, while fully respecting the right of the United States to set its own immigration policies.

I can assure the Deputy that we will continue to do all that we can to help the undocumented Irish, and their families here in Ireland.

Election Monitoring Missions

Ceisteanna (172)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

172. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the efforts his Department can make with regard to attempting to ensure that fair access is permitted to all political parties and political leaders in order to participate in parliamentary democratic elections in Bangladesh; and his views on the political situation in Bangladesh. [13230/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Deputy may recall that arrangements for the 2014 elections in Bangladesh were disputed and were ultimately boycotted by the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which therefore does not currently hold any seats in parliament. Voter turnout was also very low.

The 2016 local elections, which took place with opposition participation, were tainted by violence and electoral irregularities.

A general election is due to be held in Bangladesh by 2019 at the latest and I am concerned at reports that have emerged in relation to the breakdown in a free and fair democratic process there. While Ireland does not have a resident diplomatic representation in Bangladesh.

Ireland’s Ambassador to India is accredited to Bangladesh and is monitoring the situation closely. In addition, officials at my Department engage regularly with the European External Action Service working through its EU delegation in Dhaka.

Members of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South Asia had the opportunity to visit Bangladesh in February last. They expressed their concerns at the deterioration of the human rights situation in the country over the past few years, and took note of reports on hindrance to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and violence against women.

The Delegation invited the Bangladeshi authorities to step up efforts as regards these concerns and to facilitate the valuable work of civil society in addressing these issues. The members of the Delegation drew particular attention to their hope that the political environment would become less confrontational and hostile in coming months and urged the Bangladeshi authorities to facilitate the necessary conditions for inclusive, free and fair general elections in 2019.

I urge the Government of Bangladesh to take on board these concerns and to act upon them in order to help develop much-needed public confidence in future electoral processes in the country. I firmly believe that respect for, and the promotion of, human rights and democracy, including free, fair and inclusive elections in the period ahead, in accordance with international standards for democratic elections, will contribute to creating a more secure and prosperous Bangladesh.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to monitor the situation closely and maintain contact with actors on the ground in Bangladesh in the weeks and months ahead.

Passport Applications Data

Ceisteanna (173)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

173. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the target and actual turnaround time for passport applications across all passport services in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13231/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Turnaround times for passport applications in Ireland are outlined in the following tables:

Type of Passport Application

Current Average Turnaround Times

Online Passport Application

7 working days

An Post Passport Express Renewal Applications

16 working days

An Post Passport Express First Time Application, Lost/Stolen/Damaged Replacements

25 working days

Northern Ireland Passport Express Renewal Applications Northern Ireland Passport Express First Time Application,

15 working days

Northern Ireland Passport Express Lost/Stolen/Damaged Replacements

25 working days

Type of Passport Application

Current Target Turnaround Times

Online Passport Application

10 working days

An Post Passport Express Renewal Applications

15 working days

An Post Passport Express First Time Application, Lost/Stolen/Damaged Replacements

20 working days

Northern Ireland Passport Express Renewal Applications

15 working days

Northern Ireland Passport Express First Time Application, Northern Ireland Passport Express Lost/Stolen/Damaged Replacements

20 working days

Information on turnaround times for passport applications is updated weekly on the Passport Service website, www.dfa.ie/passport. The highest proportion of applications are submitted through the Passport Express postal channel. The average turnaround time for renewal applications submitted through An Post Passport Express currently stands at 16 working days. Applications in other categories, such as first time applicants or those involving lost or stolen passports, take longer as additional checks are undertaken.

The award winning online passport application service, which was launched in March last year, allows adult citizens to renew their passports online from anywhere in the world without any paperwork or witnesses. The target turnaround time for online passport application service is 10 working days plus postage time. The majority of online applications are currently being processed within 7 working days, well ahead of target. As more applicants avail of the service, the efficiency gains will help improve turnaround times more broadly.

The Passport Service operates a counter service in both the Dublin (Mount Street) and Cork offices where applicants who need their passport application processed in timeframes shorter than those offered by the Passport Express and online facility can be accommodated in certain circumstances. Appointments for this counter service can be booked online at www.passportappointments.ie.

Passport Applications Data

Ceisteanna (174)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

174. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of passport applications received to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13232/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

From 1 January – 14 March, the Passport Service received over 198,000 applications in total, an increase of 7% on the same period last year.

The Passport Service is working hard to minimise the impact of high application volumes on turnaround times and continues to closely monitor the level of passport demand to ensure that all resources, including staffing, are effectively deployed.

Passport Applications Data

Ceisteanna (175)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

175. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of passport applications received from Britain and Northern Ireland in each of the years 2012 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13233/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Tracking of passport applications is in general carried out against channel of application rather than by other metrics, including country of origin. Bearing this in mind, the following general breakdown of applications will give the available detail on numbers of passport applications received from Northern Ireland and Great Britain for 2012 to 2017 and in 2018 to date:

Year

Northern Ireland

Great Britain

2012

41,124

45,646

2013

44,122

42,441

2014

48,475

43,449

2015

53,715

46,229

2016

67,582

63,453

2017*

82,274

80,752

2018**

21,022

21,873

*Adjusted end of year figure takes in to account returns (applications that have been resubmitted to the Passport Service) and represents settled figures for end of year.

**1 Jan. – 14 Mar. 2018 only

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (176)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

176. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of full-time equivalent staff permanently employed by his Department and assigned to the passport service in each of the years 2012 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13234/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The following table details the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff permanently employed by my Department and assigned to the Passport Service on 1 January for each of the years requested:

Year

No. of Staff (FTE) 

2012

306.8

2013

297.8

2014

286.9

2015

272.6

2016

269.7

2017

301.7

2018

322.5

In addition to this, 20 permanent staff have joined the Passport Service since the beginning of this year. Furthermore, the Passport Service has received sanction for 220 Temporary Clerical Officers (TCOs) this year to be appointed to the Passport Offices in Dublin and Cork in order to respond to seasonal demands and anticipated application increases.