Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (68)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

68. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Taoiseach the amount his Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18172/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

There has been no expenditure by my Department on social media training or consultancy in the years 2011 - 2016.

Departmental Staff Training

Ceisteanna (69)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

69. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Taoiseach if training has been delivered in his Department on the use of social media; and the frequency and cost of this training. [18208/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

No training in social media has been delivered in the Department of the Taoiseach.

Strategic Communications Unit

Ceisteanna (70, 71, 72)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

70. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has examined the research that was procured by the strategic communications unit; and when it will be published or available to Dáil Éireann. [18251/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

71. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the research that was carried out by the strategic communications unit has been shared with other Departments. [18252/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

72. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the research carried out on behalf of the strategic communications unit will be discussed at committee level in Dáil Éireann. [18253/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 to 72, inclusive, together.

The Research referred to has not yet commenced. It is intended to run a Citizen survey to assess public awareness and understanding of Government services. The opposition parties will be given an opportunity to review the proposed material for the survey prior to it being issued. Once the survey has been run and results collected and analysed, it is intended to publish it.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (73)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

73. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the amount his Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18162/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

My Department has not incurred any costs for social media training.

As part of the Be Winter Ready information campaign the Office of Emergency Planning engages the services of a media communications company to create and manage an information campaign on Twitter. The costs associated with this for the years in question are provided in the following table.

 

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2017

Be Winter Ready Twitter Campaign

 

€3,690

 

€5,041.78

 

€5,043

Management of Twitter Campaign

 

€2,214

 

€2,214

 

€1,476

Departmental Staff Training

Ceisteanna (74)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

74. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if training has been delivered in his Department on the use of social media; the frequency and cost of this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18198/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

No training has been delivered in my Department in relation to the use of social media.

Defence Forces Pensions

Ceisteanna (75)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

75. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on whether fast accrual is designed to deliver optimal final benefits after 30 years of contributions and that standard accrual is designed to deliver optimal benefits after 40 years of contributions in Defence Forces pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18315/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Military occupational pension (superannuation) schemes operate within the broader context and framework of public service pension policy as determined by Government.  The design, structure etc. of military superannuation arrangements has evolved in the overall context of public service pension reforms, especially developments over the past two decades or more.  For operational and HR policy reasons, Permanent Defence Force (PDF) personnel have ‘fast accrual’ superannuation arrangements, along with lower ‘minimum pension ages’ and lower mandatory retirement ages (or where applicable, upper service limits) than the norm elsewhere in the public service. 

The superannuation arrangements of members of the PDF depend primarily on when a person first joins the public service.  Different fast pension accrual arrangements apply to personnel who:

- joined the PDF before April 2004 (‘pre-April 2004’);

- joined between 1 April 2004 and 31 December 2012 (‘post-April 2004’); or

- join from 1 January 2013 onwards.

PDF personnel who joined ‘pre-April 2004’ have atypical fast accrual pension scheme arrangements the overall value of which are considered to be more advantageous to the individual, in the round, than for other public service schemes generally.  This is due mainly to the availability of pension and gratuity (lump sum) payable immediately on retirement after relatively short periods of service, and regardless of age. The minimum qualifying period for pension and gratuity is 12 years pensionable service in the case of commissioned officers and 21 years’ service for enlisted ranks.  For pre-April 2004 enlisted ranks, maximum retirement benefits (pension and gratuity) accrue after 31 years’ pensionable service.  In the case of pre-April 2004 commissioned officers, maximum pension accrues after 23 – 30 years’ pensionable service depending on retiring rank, service in rank, overall service etc., while maximum gratuity accrues within four years of the mandatory retirement age for the rank. 

‘Post-April 2004’ PDF personnel have quite different superannuation arrangements that are more in line with conventional public service schemes generally but, importantly, retain early-paid pensions and fast pension accrual.  These PDF personnel have a ‘minimum pension age’ of 50. Maximum retirement benefits, based on pensionable remuneration at retirement date, are attained after 30 years’ pensionable service.  This is the equivalent of the 40-year standard accrual period required for computing maximum retirement benefits in most other public service areas, where retirement benefits are not ordinarily payable until age 65.  

New entrants who join the public service from 1 January 2013 onwards – including PDF members – are covered by the Single Public Service Pension Scheme, the terms and rules of which are fundamentally different to all pre-existing public service pension scheme arrangements.  Retirement benefits are based on a career average-earnings model, rather than final salary as applies pre-2013.  Members of the PDF in the Single Scheme retain the minimum pension age of 50 as well as fast accrual pension terms, to reflect operational needs.  Retirement benefits are based on the person’s pensionable remuneration (reckonable earnings) throughout their total career in the public service, and not on years’ service as such.  The Single Scheme does not cap the length of time over which members can accrue pension benefits (unlike the 40-year service cap for standard accrual, or its equivalent 30-year service cap for fast accrual typically present in pre-2013 public service pension schemes).

Defence Forces Personnel Data

Ceisteanna (76)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

76. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel who have incurred injuries or illness in the course of their duties in each of the years 2015 to 2017; the number of Defence Forces personnel on public hospital waiting lists as a consequence of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18316/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The maintenance of a cadre of personnel capable of meeting the physical demands of a career in the Defence Forces is a key human resources requirement. The provision of medical services by the Defence Forces is designed to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are medically fit to undertake the duties assigned to them. The granting of sick leave or the administration of medical treatment is not a determination on how injuries or illnesses were incurred i.e. either through work or unrelated activities.

Cumulative recorded figures for sick leave may include injury/illness acquired in the course of duty. It is not possible to provide accurate details relating to whether or not the illness or injury was acquired in the course of duty.

Specific data on the number of personnel on public hospital waiting lists as a consequence of work related injuries or illnesses is not collated by the military authorities.

Defence Forces Medical Services

Ceisteanna (77)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

77. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel who receive private health cover as part of their terms and conditions of service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18317/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The provision of medical services within the Defence Forces is a combination of primary care, secondary care and an occupational medical service designed to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are medically fit to undertake the duties assigned to them and to treat any medical conditions arising, which would inhibit their capacity to undertake such duties.

Medical Services provided to members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) in-house include, inter alia, an annual occupational medical, primary medical care treatment and the provision of medication prescribed by a doctor, physiotherapy, routine dental treatment and some limited secondary care. The Defence Forces Medical Corps is augmented by civilian medical general practitioners and other specialised medical professionals, where necessary.

The majority of secondary health care for members of the Defence Forces is provided through the public/private health system. There is no charge to members of the Defence Forces for attendance at a public hospital AandE or a stay in a public hospital. Additionally, Commissioned Officers can be referred for out-patient and in-patient treatment through private/semi-private care in civilian hospitals or private consultants’ rooms, where it is deemed necessary by the Defence Forces Medical Officer or the attending doctor subject to financial sanction. There is no cost to the officer for the private/semi private treatment as this forms part of the terms and conditions of their employment in the Defence Forces. As at 28 February 2018 there were 1118 serving Commissioned Officers in the Permanent Defence Force.

Supplementary to this, certain personnel serving overseas to certain missions where Irish military medical facilities may not be readily available or the Mission themselves do not have an organic medical capability, may be provided with health insurance to allow for medical treatment.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (78)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

78. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on a series of matters (details supplied) relating to the plight of the Rohingya; and his plans to recognise 25 August as Rohingya remembrance day. [18144/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Since the most recent escalation of violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, last year, Ireland has been actively engaged with our international partners with the aim of easing the crisis, promoting a political solution and ascertaining the facts on the ground to ensure accountability for crimes and other violations of human rights that have occurred. This has been done both through bilateral contacts in Myanmar and via participation in the EU and UN responses.

Ireland has consistently called for an independent and impartial investigation into the serious and credible allegations of human rights violations by the Myanmar security forces. These include reports of widespread killing of civilians, sexual and gender based violence, arbitrary arrests, and the burning of Rohingya villages which have led to the mass exodus of refugees the Deputy has referred to.

In that regard, we have strongly supported the extension of the mandates of the UN Fact Finding Mission and UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee, and have asked the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with them and allow them access to the country. Their work in investigating and recording victim testimony, so that it can be preserved for further criminal proceedings, is crucial to ensuring full accountability.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has referred to some of the reported actions committed by the Myanmar Security Forces as a “text book example of ethnic cleansing” while Special Rapporteur Lee has expressed concerns that these actions“bear the hallmarks of genocide”. Ireland shares these concerns which absolutely reinforce the urgent need for the Government of Myanmar to provide access to the UN Fact Finding Mission so that these human rights violations can be fully investigated.

Ireland has also actively engaged in the formation of the EU’s position including in the most recent EU Foreign Affairs Council’s Council Conclusions on Myanmar, which were adopted on 26 February last. These conclusions condemn the human rights violations in Myanmar, support the mandates of the Fact Finding Mission and Special Rapporteur and call for targeted restrictive measures against senior military officers of the Myanmar armed forces responsible for these acts. I would like to express my support of these conclusions and hope that they will send a clear message to those in military control in Myanmar.

I am aware that there are plans currently underway to designate 25 August as Rohingya Remembrance Day in Ireland. Successful efforts by civil society to ensure that the plight of the Rohingya remains in the public eye are helpful and I have been encouraged by the strong public response there has been in Ireland to events in Myanmar.

My Department will continue to keep in touch with representatives of the Rohingya Community in Ireland and will also liaise closely with EU and other international partners to press for progress in resolving this crisis including through our Embassy in Thailand who are closely monitoring the situation.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (79, 80)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

79. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if funds from his Department are sent to Libya through European Union grants to help fund the Libyan coast guard and-or detention centres for migrants and refugees in that country. [18145/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

80. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Libyan coast guard is aggressively stopping boats full of refugees in international waters (details supplied); his views on whether Libya is a safe country of origin; and the steps he is taking to request the Libyan coast guard to cease violating international law by returning refugees to a country which is not a safe country of origin. [18146/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 80 together.

I am deeply troubled by the abuses perpetrated against refugees and migrants in Libya. My EU colleagues and I have raised these concerns on a number of occasions at the Foreign Affairs Council, as did the Taoiseach at the European Council in October. I reiterate my call on the Libyan Government, and all parties, including those with de facto control of territory, to take steps to eliminate ill-treatment of migrants, and to facilitate access to detention centres by UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations.

At the European Council in October 2017, the Taoiseach announced a doubling of Ireland’s support to the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), to help address the root causes of migration. Half of Ireland's total EUTF commitment of €6 million is earmarked for the Horn of Africa, where the largest number of internally displaced persons and refugees in Africa are located. By supporting refugees and host communities, addressing socio-economic development, and building resilience, this funding addresses the long-term drivers of migration. The other half of Ireland’s contribution to the EUTF is not earmarked to any one geographical area.

Overall, the EUTF has allocated €162 million to Libya. Over half of this Libya funding goes to projects to enhance protection for migrants, refugees and host communities, and to support socio-economic development at local level. A €46 million programme aims at enhancing Libya’s capacity to effectively manage its borders, and this programme includes support for Libya’s Coastguard. The EU provides training, including in international humanitarian law, human rights and gender issues, to the Libyan Coastguard. A further €20 million is allocated to projects focused on voluntary return and reintegration, alternatives to detention, and provision of life-saving equipment, capacity building and training.

As I have said before, Libya needs a functioning coastguard, both to protect its coasts, and indeed in order to rescue people in danger at sea. I call on the Libyan authorities to ensure that the Coastguard adheres to international law at all times, including of course when lives are in danger at sea.

I share the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UNHCR’s assessment that Libya is not a safe third country. It is for this reason that the EU has increased its cooperation with these UN agencies and the African Union, to accelerate voluntary returns by migrants in Libya to their countries of origin, and to establish safe and legal pathways for resettlement of those in need of international protection. Since EU-AU-UN cooperation began in November 2017, the number of migrants in official Libyan detention centres has fallen from an estimated 20,000 people in October 2017 to 4,000 people as of March. The IOM, with the support of the EU and its Member States, is continuing to assist migrants inside Libyan detention centres, while increasing efforts to reach stranded migrants outside of detention.

The EU is also actively supporting alternatives to the detention of migrants in Libya. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was recently allowed to open a transit and departure facility in Tripoli to facilitate the transfer of vulnerable refugees to third countries. The IOM is working to promote safe spaces to host vulnerable migrants, including children, in Libya.

Ireland provided core funding to the UNHCR last year of €7.5 million, which supports its work in Libya. Ireland also provided €9.5 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2017. The ICRC’s work in Libya includes visiting detention centres to monitor the treatment of migrants, and to help them contact relatives. In 2015, Ireland earmarked €1 million in humanitarian funding specifically to support ICRC’s work in Libya.

Work such as this is a first step in improving the condition of migrants in Libya, although there is still a lot to be done to ensure that migrants do not suffer the terrible conditions which have been reported.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (81, 82)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

81. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount his Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18166/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

82. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if training has been delivered in his Department on the use of social media; the frequency and cost of this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18202/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 82 together.

My Department provides social media training to staff to increase their capacity to promote public engagement and accountability for our work across global issues and in the delivery of services.

In-house expertise is used wherever possible and training on the use of social media is generally delivered by the Communications Unit in my Department at no additional cost.

The information requested by the Deputy regarding training that has been delivered on the use of social media, including the amounts spent on social media consultancy in each of the years 2011 – 2016, is set out in the following table. From time to time the Department’s eighty missions overseas may incur modest miscellaneous expenses in relation to social media training.

Date

Description

Organised by

Cost

19 January 2016

Facebook training for missions

DFAT Communications Unit with Facebook

Nil

21 January 2016

Twitter training for missions

DFAT Communications Unit with Twitter

Nil

3 March 2015

Social Media and Website Training

DFAT Press Office

Nil

17 July 2014

Social Media and Website Training

DFAT Press Office

Nil

26 June 2014

Social Media and Legal Risks

Public Affairs Ireland

€295

9 July 2013

Social Media Training

Darragh Doyle

€450

16&17 October 2012

Certificate in Social Media

Public Affairs Ireland

€560

23 June 2011

Using Social Media in the Public Sector

Public Affairs Ireland

€395 x3

9 September  2011

Social Media Training

Irish Times Training

€345 x2

Middle East Issues

Ceisteanna (83)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

83. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if increased assistance will be provided to humanitarian agencies in Gaza following the high casualty rate of Palestinians shot and injured during the six week great march of return which began on 30 March 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18250/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland’s programme of assistance to the Palestinian people supports our political objectives and reflects a longstanding commitment to the peaceful development of a viable, sovereign Palestinian State. Through the Irish Aid programme, we currently provide some €10 million annually in development and humanitarian assistance. This involves support to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees and civil society organisations working to promote human rights.

In December 2017, Ireland provided additional funding of €500,000 to UNRWA to support their Gaza Emergency Appeal in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Other agencies operating in Gaza also received funding including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA received €500,000 in 2017 for their activities in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt); €300,000 of which was for the oPt Humanitarian Fund. This is used to support the emergency response operations of NGOs and UN agencies. In 2017, almost 80% of the oPt Humanitarian Fund addressed urgent needs in Gaza.

To date in 2018, Ireland has approved funding totalling €4.25 million for UNRWA’s Programme Budget, which supports the provision of services and assistance to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees including in Gaza. This is an increase of €250,000 on their 2017 allocation.

In March, Ireland disbursed €2.9 million in core funding to OCHA and €9.5 million in core funding to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which works throughout the oPt, including in Gaza. The ICRC is providing material and technical support to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and to hospitals in Gaza in their emergency response. As part of its work, the ICRC is also working with relevant authorities and security forces to try to minimise the impact of violence on civilians and preserve a humanitarian space where health care workers can operate safely.

Ireland is also a key supporter of the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), providing €22 million in 2017. A grant of $15 million was provided from the CERF to UNRWA last month to enable the organisation to provide urgent food assistance for more than 600,000 Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank.

I am deeply concerned by the events in Gaza over recent weeks. The Tánaiste, on behalf of the Government, has repeatedly called for the utmost restraint, and urged the Israeli authorities, in particular, to ensure that any force is used only as a last resort. The number of people injured by live ammunition is very troubling, and Ireland has supported calls by the EU and by the UN Secretary General for an independent and transparent investigation. The appalling number of serious injuries and the loss of life exacerbate an already fragile humanitarian situation, and increase the vulnerabilities of many families, the majority of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid to meet basic needs. Ireland is closely monitoring the situation in Gaza and will continue to provide support to existing UN and NGO partners working in Gaza.

Mortgage Insurance

Ceisteanna (84)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

84. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the rights an applicant for a mortgage has if the required life insurance to obtain a mortgage is refused on the grounds of a historical medical condition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18128/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Central Bank has advised that when an individual(s) applies for a mortgage loan to buy a home, the individual(s) will generally be required to take out mortgage protection insurance. This is a particular type of life assurance taken out for the term of the mortgage and designed to pay it off on the death of the borrower or joint borrower.

It is an underwriting consideration for an insurance firm to decide whether to take on the risk or not. Should the insurance firm take on the risk, it may result in a large loading/premium for the customer.  Alternatively, the insurance firm could decide not to take on the risk at all. This would be a commercial/underwriting decision by the insurance firm. 

In most cases, a lender is legally required under Section 126 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 to make sure that a mortgage applicant has mortgage protection insurance before granting a mortgage loan.  However, section 126 also sets out some exemptions to the requirement on a lender to ensure mortgage protection insurance is in place and one of these is in relation to "loans to persons who belong to a class of persons which would not be acceptable to an insurer, or which would only be acceptable to an insurer at a premium significantly higher than that payable by borrowers generally”.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (85)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

85. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance the amount his Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18165/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I wish to advise the Deputy that during 2016 the following expenditure was incurred by the Department in relation to the following training:

Certificate for Press Officer - €1,560

MA in Political Communication - €3,600.

Departmental Staff Training

Ceisteanna (86)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

86. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance if training has been delivered in his Department on the use of social media; the frequency and cost of this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18201/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I wish to advise the Deputy that during 2016 the following expenditure was incurred by the Department in relation to the following training:

Certificate for Press Officer - €1,560

MA in Political Communication - €3,600.

Help-To-Buy Scheme Administration

Ceisteanna (87)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

87. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Finance the status of an application by a person (details supplied) under the help-to-buy incentive; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this person could lose a house the person plans to buy if there is an unnecessary delay in determining the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18215/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

In regard to the case in question, Revenue has confirmed that there was no unnecessary delay in processing the application. Revenue did however make direct contact with the person’s co-purchaser in relation to a matter in respect of the claim.  The matter was subsequently resolved by the co-purchaser and the HTB application was immediately approved and processed.