Middle East Issues

Ceisteanna (118, 120, 127, 128)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

118. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Palestinian prisoners including children held in Israeli prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21459/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

120. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of prisoners held in Israeli prisons that are members of groups (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21461/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

127. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli prison camps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21471/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

128. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Israeli citizens detained in Palestinian prison camps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21472/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118, 120, 127 and 128 together.

Issues relating to prisoners, both the judicial system and conditions of detention, feature in many discussions about the Middle East Peace Process, and I have addressed them frequently in the Dáil.

My Department and I have also worked to highlight these issues internationally. For example, as part of the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Israel earlier this year, Ireland raised concerns about Israel’s extensive use of administrative detention without formal charge. I also raised concerns about the detention of minors directly with the Israeli authorities when I visited the country in January.

However, my Department does not have the capacity to keep track of the total numbers or categories of prisoners in other jurisdictions, figures which are likely to change from day to day, and which may not be publicly available. I believe Israeli and Palestinian NGOs sometimes provide estimates of such figures in their reports.

Middle East Issues

Question No. 120 answered with Question No. 118.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 116.

Ceisteanna (119)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

119. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which reconstruction or improvement works in Gaza are being hampered by the Israeli authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21460/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

All construction work in Gaza is severely hampered by Israeli restrictions on types and quantities of materials that are allowed into the Strip. This includes reconstruction of war damaged buildings, including large numbers of houses, and construction of essential infrastructure, such as badly needed water, sewage and electricity utilities. Even those projects which are approved are subject to delays, and additional costs, due to the restrictions.

In my contacts in the region I have discussed a number of possible projects to improve conditions in Gaza, with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and others. An easing of restrictions imposed by Israel would be essential elements of these. I will continue to take this work forward.

Question No. 120 answered with Question No. 118.
Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 116.

Western Balkans Issues

Ceisteanna (122)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

122. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which the European Union continues to foster good relations with the countries in the western Balkans with particular reference to the need for applicant countries to comply with the acquis communautaire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21463/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The European Union continues to work closely with the countries of the Western Balkans to encourage progress on their European path. The stability of the Western Balkans is important for the security of the EU and the region is a priority for the Bulgarian Presidency. A Strategy for the Western Balkans was published in February, and the Taoiseach will attend an EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia on 17 May where the main focus of discussion will be connectivity, which is essential for the future development of the countries of the region.

The countries of the Western Balkans have a European perspective, but reforms are required across a wide range of areas, particularly in the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, to reach the high standards set out in the chapters of the acquis communautaire.

Two of the countries of the Western Balkans have opened formal accession negotiations with the European Union: Montenegro and Serbia. Thirty chapters (out of a total of 35) have been opened with Montenegro; of these three have already been provisionally closed. Twelve chapters have been opened with Serbia and two have been provisionally closed.

The European Commission published country reports on each of the countries of the Western Balkans in April. These reports detail the ‘state of play’, assess progress made and make recommendations for future action, and will form the basis for a discussion by Ministers at the General Affairs Council in June.

The EU endeavours to foster good relations in all of its engagement with the Western Balkans, through the provision of pre-accession funding, by facilitating the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and in its intense engagement with the candidate countries which have a ‘European Perspective’ but which have not yet opened formal negotiations, namely Albania and Macedonia, as well as the potential candidate countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Ireland is a strong supporter of the enlargement policy of the EU, believing that the accession process is a transformative driver for peace and stability. We also believe that there can be no shortcuts to membership, and that all standards and conditions must be met.

Good Friday Agreement

Ceisteanna (123)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

123. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he continues to pursue the issue of the Good Friday and subsequent agreements and the return of the Northern Assembly with a view to ensuring insofar as is possible that a government structure exists in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21464/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Good Friday Agreement is the indispensable framework for providing stable, inclusive, power-sharing government for all the people of Northern Ireland and for sustaining our interlocking relationships – within Northern Ireland, on the island of Ireland and between the UK and Ireland.

Over the course of many months, the Irish and British Governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, have worked tirelessly to support and facilitate the parties in their efforts to form an Executive.

The devolved, power-sharing institutions are at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement and are the best means for achieving accountable, representative decision-making for all the people of Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, to date, it has not proved possible to reach an agreement on the formation of an Executive, despite intensive engagement. In light of this, the Government has been working with the British Government to consider means by which we can support the political process, in accordance with the Agreement, in the period ahead.

The Taoiseach has spoken with Prime Minister May and emphasised the Government’s full commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, and our continuing determination to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.

I am in very regular contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, as we seek a way beyond the current impasse. I met with Secretary of State Bradley on 3 May and we spoke further by phone last week, on 9 May. Over the last few weeks, the Secretary of State and I have each been conducting a round of contacts with the Northern Ireland political parties, to hear their views on how at this stage the two Governments can support the political process, in accordance with the Agreement. All parties have re-affirmed their commitment to operating the devolved institutions and provided views on their key concerns and issues to be addressed in seeking a way forward.

In light of these consultations, the Secretary of State and I will consider how best the two Governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, can chart a way forward that will give the best prospects for getting the devolved institutions operating again without delay. I will continue to engage intensively, working with Secretary of State Bradley and the leaders of all of the political parties, until that is achieved.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (124)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

124. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the degree to which he continues to pursue the vital national objectives of Ireland in the context of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21465/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Following on from the March European Council, the EU and UK agreed to five additional formal rounds of negotiations between April and the next European Council in June. These negotiations are focused on all outstanding issues in the draft Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as the future relationship.

The UK has agreed that a backstop solution for the border will form part of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, in line with paragraph 49 of the Joint Progress Report agreed last December. The UK has also agreed that all the issues identified in the EU draft of the Protocol will be addressed to deliver a legally sound solution for the border.

Prime Minister May confirmed this in her letter to President Tusk of 19 March, in addition to reiterating the UK's commitment last December to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and the gains of the peace process, including the overarching guarantee on avoiding a hard border.

The Government has always maintained that the backstop will apply unless and until another solution is found. While we share Prime Minister May's preference to resolve these issues through the wider agreement on the EU's future relationship with the UK, it is crucial that we have certainty in all scenarios on the commitments already made on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It is also the case that the UK’s repeatedly stated positions, including its wish to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union, limit the depth of the future partnership and have consequences for the ability of the EU-UK future relationship agreement to deliver on all the commitments and guarantees provided by the UK with regard to protecting North South cooperation, the all island economy and the Good Friday Agreement, including avoiding a hard border.

Negotiations are ongoing, including detailed discussions between the EU and the UK on issues relating to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Significantly more progress is needed on agreeing the Protocol, including the backstop on avoiding a hard border, ahead of the June European Council.

The EU has always made clear that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and that negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full. The European Council is therefore continuing to follow the negotiations closely and will return in particular to the remaining withdrawal issues, including the Protocol, and to the framework for the future relationship at its next meeting in June. It is essential that real and substantial progress be made by the June European Council meeting.

The objective of the negotiators is that the full legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, and a detailed political declaration on the framework for the future relationship, should be concluded by the October European Council. This limited timeframe underlines the urgency of the work ahead in the coming weeks.

Humanitarian Aid

Ceisteanna (125)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

125. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which humanitarian aid from Ireland and other EU countries continues to be monitored to ensure that such aid goes directly to the areas or persons to which it was intended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21469/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland’s humanitarian assistance targets the most vulnerable and hard to reach populations experiencing disasters and emergencies. Humanitarian crises worldwide are monitored, with decisions on funding informed by an annual categorisation of need assessment. This identifies the highest priorities for the allocation of humanitarian resources and highlights areas where early funding is required. This helps ensure that aid goes where needs are greatest. Ireland focuses in particular on forgotten and underfunded crises, providing assistance where others are not. Monitoring of Ireland’s humanitarian assistance is undertaken through robust grant management and report appraisal processes, including monitoring visits to programmes being implemented by our partner organisations in crisis countries, where the humanitarian situation on the ground allows. This year, monitoring visits have taken place to programmes in Somalia, Cameroon and Tanzania, with further visits planned in 2018.

Ireland also advocates strongly within the EU for humanitarian aid to be provided to those that are most vulnerable, as well as for EU aid to be managed in the most effective and efficient way possible so that it has the maximum effect. Correct implementation of humanitarian aid managed by the EU is ensured by several layers of checks and monitoring, also including regular field visits to projects. Regular evaluations are undertaken, focusing on major country operations, partners and thematic issues. The results of these evaluations are publicly available.

In 2018, Ireland will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation worldwide closely in order to ensure that humanitarian support is provided to the most severe ongoing crises and to those in most need. We will also react to sudden-onset crises or sudden spikes in humanitarian need due to conflict or natural disasters, while remaining committed to providing assistance to crises that are forgotten by others. Thus far this year Ireland has provided over €16 million to the Syria humanitarian response, over €4 million to the response for the Democratic Republic of Congo and €4 million to the Yemen response. Substantial support has also been provided to Somalia, the Central African Republic and Sudan, amongst other situations. Looking forward, it is clear that the ongoing Rohingya crisis and ongoing food insecurity in the Sahel and in the Lake Chad basin will also require our continued assistance in 2018. We believe that it is not only the quantity of assistance but the quality of it that is critical, and will continue to advocate at the EU and other fora on improving the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, including through using innovative funding mechanisms. Ireland will also continue to work to ensure that Irish and EU assistance reaches those in greatest need in the most efficient and effective way possible, with robust monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure this.

Foreign Policy

Questions Nos. 127 and 128 answered with Question No. 118.

Ceisteanna (126)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

126. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the ten major trouble spots globally; the extent to which Ireland and the EU continue to assist in such situations; the progress achieved to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21470/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Considerable ongoing efforts are being made by Ireland and our EU partners to resolve, and where possible prevent, conflicts using all the available instruments to foster constructive dialogue and to encourage peaceful, negotiated solutions to political differences. There is no general agreement however on the situations which give rise to the greatest concern globally.

Ireland’s approach to engaging with global challenges is set out in The Global Island: Ireland’s Foreign Policy for a Changing World. We work to achieve a fairer, more just, more secure and more sustainable world through our development and conflict resolution programmes; our human rights, peacekeeping, disarmament and security policies; and growing engagement with emerging global issues including climate change. The Global Island also sets out how Ireland’s voice and influence can be amplified through engagement with the EU and the UN.

The EU’s Global Strategy sets out a vision for foreign and security policy. The Strategy commits the European Union to promoting peace, prosperity, democracy and the rule of law around the world. This includes efforts to strengthen global governance and cooperative regional orders. For these purposes, the EU is implementing an integrated approach to conflicts and crises drawing on the full array of available instruments including political and diplomatic activities; economic development assistance and trade policies; capacity building for rule of law as well as peace-keeping. Implementation of the Global Strategy is ongoing and is discussed regularly by Ministers at the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

Questions Nos. 127 and 128 answered with Question No. 118.

EU Issues

Ceisteanna (129)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

129. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which it is planned to ensure that Ireland's position as a member of the EU is not diminished in the course of Brexit related discussions or EU generated reviews of taxation or other structural reviews; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21473/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Engagement on Brexit with EU partners is a central element of my work. This approach has yielded clear results in ensuring that Ireland’s unique issues and concerns have been fully understood by our EU27 partners and have been reflected in the EU’s negotiating position. As the negotiations enter an important phase over the coming weeks and months, continuing such engagement with EU partners, both at political and official level, will remain a key priority.

In my meetings with EU partners to date, I have laid particular emphasis on Ireland’s objective of protecting the gains of the peace process and avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. In so doing, I have been equally clear that we will only pursue solutions that are compatible with our aim of protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.

We have made clear to EU partners, to third countries, and to business and civil society, that Ireland’s place is at the heart of the European Union. Moreover, the Irish people are strongly committed to EU membership as has been shown in numerous opinion polls over many years. The results of the EMI-Red C Poll published on 8 May showed that the support in Ireland for continued membership of the EU is higher than ever at 92%. It is imperative that we use our influence to shape the future direction of the European Union. Each Member State, Ireland included, will be bringing its own contributions to the debate. The strong feedback from the citizens’ dialogues we have been conducting across the country is that the Irish people see their future in Europe and Ireland at the heart of it. We will continue to work closely with partners to advance and defend Ireland's interests across the range of policy areas, including taxation.

We have undertaken extensive analysis of the consequences of Brexit and our unequivocal conclusion is that our future interests are best served by remaining a fully committed member of the European Union, notwithstanding the UK’s departure.

I will continue to deliver this message in my engagements in the coming weeks.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (130)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

130. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which child soldiers continue to be used in various war situations throughout Africa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21474/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The recruitment and use of child soldiers during conflict remains a serious problem globally, including in Africa. Tens of thousands of children are recruited and used as soldiers in conflicts around the world. Since 2002, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has issued an annual report on children and armed conflict which lists all armed groups – both state and non-state – that recruit and use children. The most recent report, published in August 2017, cites groups operating in eight African countries; namely the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria and Mali. In 2016, the recruitment and use of children documented in Somalia more than doubled compared with 2015. In South Sudan, 1,022 children were recruited and used as child soldiers.

The recruitment and use of children as soldiers is explicitly prohibited under international humanitarian law and human rights law. In 1999, the UN Security Council passed its first Resolution, UNSCR 1261, on the impact of armed conflict on children and condemned violations in that context. In the same year, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child entered into force. Article 22 of the Charter sets out a prohibition on the recruitment and direct participation in hostilities of any person under the age of 18 years.

Ever since, the Security Council has established important tools to strengthen child protection and to strengthen implementation of international standards, including the position of UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict who investigates and develops best practices to address the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Ireland’s commitment to the eradication of the recruitment and use of child soldiers is highlighted in our Policy for International Development, ‘One World, One Future’. In addition to the focus in our development programme on addressing the socio-economic causes which can lead to conflict, and the recruitment of child soldiers, Ireland also supports more targeted interventions by working with organizations such as UNICEF, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and institutions such as the International Criminal Court.

EU Issues

Ceisteanna (131)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

131. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which efforts are ongoing within the European Union to address the issue of Euroscepticism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21475/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Euroscepticism is not new but in recent years it has become more vocal. In the Rome Declaration of March last year, EU Heads of State and Government pledged ‘to listen and respond to the concerns expressed by our citizens’ and to “address the challenges of a rapidly changing world.”

Having gone through a series of crises in recent years, including the Eurozone crisis, terror attacks, migration and Brexit, the EU is now moving in a more positive direction characterised by economic growth across all member states. To maintain this impetus we need to ensure that the EU is delivering practical improvements to the lives of citizens through policies to promote jobs and growth and by addressing internal and external challenges such as migration and international terrorism. Completion of the single market and Digital Single Market – which Ireland has been pushing – are two ways of doing that.

The public launch of the Citizens’ Dialogue on the Future of Europe by the Taoiseach in November marked the formal start of a process designed to engage the Irish public directly in a debate on the kind of Europe they want to see evolve. The aim of this process, which culminated in the National Citizens’ Dialogue on 9 May, has been to raise awareness of the issues involved and to encourage participation in the debate. We have been impressed by the level of engagement at all of the events, and will use this engagement process to formulate Ireland’s contribution to the wider European debate and specifically to President Tusk’s Leaders’ Agenda. Similar public outreach initiatives to engage citizens are taking place in many countries across the EU.

Engaging meaningfully with citizens across the Union; listening and responding to their concerns is the best means of ensuring support for our work on EU issues.

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

Ceisteanna (132)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

132. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) that holds a primary medical certificate will be permitted to sell their car and buy a second hand automatic whilst retaining existing benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20815/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the person in question should make a new application for relief under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers scheme, in respect of the purchase and adaptation of the second hand vehicle. Once the application is processed, the benefits on the previous car will cease and become available in respect of the newly acquired vehicle.

To advance matters the person should submit an online application in respect of the vehicle through Revenue’s myAccount service at www.revenue.ie. Alternatively, a completed application Form DD1 can be posted to Revenue’s Central Repayments Office, M:TEK II Building, Armagh Road, Monaghan.

State Claims Agency

Ceisteanna (133)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

133. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Finance further to information provided (details supplied), if he will provide minutes of meetings to consider reports among he and his officials and minutes of meetings between officials of his Department and other Departments and agencies including the State Claims Agency; if the reports provided on a quarterly basis made reference to cases relating to the cervical screening crisis namely cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20837/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The NTMA (Amendment) Act 2000, which established the SCA, provides for the SCA to deal directly with the bodies which are delegated to it for claims management on behalf of the relevant Minister. The relevant Minister’s role and responsibilities must be respected while claims which arise are being managed. As my Department does not have a role in the day-to-day handling of medical negligence cases, my Department had no meetings with the SCA on these matters.

Arising from a Government Decision in 2007, the State Claims Agency submits to the Department of Finance a report containing important and sensitive cases being managed by the Agency on a quarterly basis. As the responsible Minister for the NTMA, I bring this report to Government at the first available opportunity following the ending of the quarter as part of a Memorandum for Information. That Memorandum does not include medical negligence cases primarily because of the large number of such individual cases, most of which are inherently sensitive.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (134)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

134. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Finance the value of contracts for goods or services from companies (details supplied) since 2010. [20853/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The value of contracts for goods and services incurred by my department in relation to HP Inc; HP Enterprise; and DXC Technology are set out in the table below. In 2010 my department paid €11,516.15 to Hewlett-Packard Enterprises to provide hardware and software support services of a backup and recovery solution for the Department's files and systems. All remaining payments are made in regards of our PMG Banking System.

2018 YTD

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

DXC Technology (Global EntServ Solutions Ireland Ltd)

€13,837.50

€55,350.00

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Irl Ltd

€99,660.75

€64,153.10

€110,185.86

€76,155.44

€65,085.44

€64,027.16

€108,229.03