Departmental Functions

Ceisteanna (80)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

80. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the division of responsibilities between his Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of Northern Ireland affairs. [21023/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

As you would expect, there is close cooperation between my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which has primary responsibility for matters relating to Northern Ireland, North South cooperation and British Irish relations. Officials from the two Departments work very closely together across the range of issues relating to Northern Ireland and British Irish affairs.

Within my Department, the Northern Ireland section supports me, in my role as Taoiseach, on Northern Ireland matters. The Section also supports me and in my contacts with the British Prime Minister more broadly in the context of the role of the two Governments as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and in the ongoing efforts to secure the restoration of the institutions under the Agreement.

It assists me with my participation in key institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, such as the North South Ministerial Council (when operational),the British Irish Council and in other aspects of cross-border engagement and cooperation.

As part of its role, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides staff and funding to the British Irish Inter-Governmental Secretariat in Belfast and the North-South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat in Armagh.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and his staff are also in regular contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the main political parties in Northern Ireland in relation to matters of concern to the Irish Government including issues relating to the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements, talks on the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and of course Brexit.

Central Statistics Office Data

Ceisteanna (81)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

81. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the current rates of emigration and immigration. [21117/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

Statistics on migration are included in the CSO's annual Population and Migration Estimates release. The principal source of information for the estimation of annual migration flows, incorporating both emigration and immigration, is the Labour Force Survey (LFS), formally the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS). The latest release was published in August 2017 and the latest annual figures available are for the year to April 2017.

This release shows that an estimated 84,600 persons migrated to Ireland in the year from April 2016 to April 2017 while an estimated 64,800 left Ireland in the same period, with net inward migration of 19,800 persons. In the previous year to April 2016 there were 82,300 inward and 66,200 outward migrants, giving net inward migration of 16,200 persons.

Departmental Functions

Ceisteanna (82)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

82. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the supports provided by his Department to Independent Ministers and supporters of the Government. [21243/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

My Department, as outlined in the Strategy Statement, provides support services for the Taoiseach and the Government, including the Independent Members of Government, through the Government Secretariat, the Parliamentary Liaison Unit, the Programme for Government Office and the Cabinet Committee structure to ensure Government business is managed to the highest standards. The Chief Strategist for the Independent Alliance and the Political Coordinator for the Independent Ministers in Government are also based in my Department.

The Business of Government is coordinated by the Government Secretariat, this includes the preparation of the Cabinet agenda, the circulation of papers and the communication of the Government's decisions to the relevant Ministers and Departments.

The Parliamentary Liaison Unit was established to help ensure that Ministers and Government Departments are properly informed of new responsibilities and procedures in the 32nd Dail. The Unit provides support to Ministers and their Departments on Oireachtas matters with a particular emphasis on assisting Departments with Private Members' Business.

In performing this function the Unit liaises on a regular basis with advisors to the Independent members of Government, to ensure that they are informed of Oireachtas issues and to assist them in engaging with the processes arising from Dáil reform.

In this regard the Parliamentary Liaison Unit provides detailed information on upcoming matters in the Dáil and Seanad and highlights any new Oireachtas reform issues.

The Programme for Government Office provides assistance to Government in delivering on its ambitious programme of work through monitoring the implementation of the commitments contained in the Programme for Government (PfG) across all Departments. The Office prepares progress reports and an annual report setting out progress made across all of Government in implementing the commitments in the Programme.

The Cabinet Committee system, which is an important part of the machinery of Government and a core part of the work of the Department, provides a whole of Government, co-ordinated approach to issues as necessary. The scope of the Cabinet Committee system encompasses the Government's national priorities and the challenges Ireland faces in the coming years.

The Government Press Secretary acts as a spokesperson for the Taoiseach and the Government and is supported by the Press Office in his role of co-ordinating the media relations of all Government Departments.

The Deputy Press Secretary, who is also based in my Department, is tasked with coordinating communications for all the Independents in Government.

My Department continues to adapt and strengthen these supports to ensure they are fully responsive to the requirements arising from Dáil Reform and to support effective minority government arrangements.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Ceisteanna (83)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

83. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of Cabinet committee meetings he attended in April 2018. [21444/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I chaired two Cabinet Committee meetings in April - Cabinet Committee E (Health) and Cabinet Committee G (Justice and Equality).

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (84)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

84. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach the amount set aside on an annual basis for contingent liability for the past 25 years to date; the way in which it is determined the amount that is forecast to be needed for contingent liability; if an actuary analysis is carried out for budgeting current and future contingent liability; and if a risk assessment is conducted in the context of contingent liability. [20832/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

No amount is set aside on an annual basis by my Department for contingent liabilities. If a contingent liability arises, a note is included in the "Miscellaneous" section of my Department's Appropriation Account. My Department's (audited) Appropriation Account is published on an annual basis by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (85)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

85. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Taoiseach the value of contracts for goods or services from companies (details supplied) since 2010. [20860/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

My Department has had no contracts with the companies in question during the period in question.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Ceisteanna (86)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

86. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach the number of times and the dates Cabinet committee C (European Union Including Brexit). [20769/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The Government approved the establishment of Cabinet Committee C on 5 July 2017. This Cabinet Committee covers issues relating to the European Union, and assists the Government in its ongoing consideration of Brexit. It also supports my participation as a member of the European Council.

Cabinet Committee C first met on 11 September 2017 and again on the 13 February this year. The next meeting is expected to take place before the June European Council.

Given their significance, matters relating to Brexit and other EU issues are frequently discussed at meetings of the full Cabinet, and, in addition, I regularly meet with relevant Ministers to focus on particular issues, including those relating to the EU and Brexit. I have also had meetings with fishing and farming organisations to discuss the implications of Brexit.

Preparation for Brexit at official level, both in relation to the negotiations and in preparing for the potential consequences of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, is intensive, with a range of inter-departmental and senior officials' groups meeting regularly.

Departmental Legal Cases

Ceisteanna (87)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

87. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the circumstances in which the Office of the Attorney General in defending cases taken against the State or public bodies will seek to negotiate a confidentiality clause in settlement agreements; the extent to which consideration of the public interest in free access to information regarding the administration of public services in the State are taken into account by the Attorney General as upholder of the public interest in deciding whether to seek a confidentiality clause as part of a settlement; and if section 23 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (details supplied) has had an impact on policy or practice in relation to seeking confidentiality clauses in settlements. [21075/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

Settlements entered into by the State with third parties, do from time to time, contain confidentiality clauses because, for example, of the sensitive or commercial nature of the case. It is sometimes the position that the plaintiff or victim seeks confidentiality, and sometimes part of a settlement only might be subject to a confidentiality clause. The State takes the public interest into account when such clauses are proposed and would not support a clause which is contrary to the public interest.

Furthermore no confidentiality clause would be inserted which contradicts a specific statutory requirement, such as section 23 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, where that is relevant.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (88)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

88. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the number of staff in his Department assigned solely or primarily to work on North-South issues. [21271/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The Britain and Northern Ireland Section forms part of the International, EU and Northern Ireland Division of my Department which is headed by a Second Secretary General.

Within my Department, the Britain and Northern Ireland Section supports me, in my role as Taoiseach, on Northern Ireland matters. The Section also supports me in my contacts with the British Prime Minister more broadly in the context of the role of the two Governments as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and in the ongoing efforts to secure the restoration of the institutions under the Agreement.

It assists me with my participation in key institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, such as the North South Ministerial Council (when operational),the British Irish Council and in other aspects of cross-border engagement and cooperation and the British Irish Council.

As you would expect, there is close cooperation between my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which has primary responsibility for matters relating to Northern Ireland, North-South cooperation and British-Irish relations. Officials from the two Departments work very closely together across the range of issues relating to Northern Ireland and British-Irish affairs.

There are currently 10 staff assigned to the Britain and Northern Ireland Section of my Department.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (89)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

89. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the value of contracts for goods or services from companies (details supplied) since 2010. [20850/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Payments made by my Department since 2010 to the 3 companies referred to by the Deputy in respect of goods and services amount to €2,263.93 EX VAT.

Naval Service Data

Ceisteanna (90)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

90. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Naval Service deployments that were carried out in support of the joint task force on drug interdiction in 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20863/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Joint Task Force on Drug Interdiction (JTF) was established in 1993 as a Government measure to improve law enforcement in relation to illegal drug smuggling and consists of members of An Garda Síochána, the Customs Service and the Naval Service.

The Deputy will be aware that overall responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking rests primarily with the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners, while responsibility for the prevention of crime rests primarily with An Garda Síochána. The White Paper on Defence (2015) reaffirms the security role carried out by the Defence Forces in support of this important work. For operational and security reasons, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not appropriate for me to disclose details of operations of the JTF involving the Naval Service.

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (91)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

91. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the amount of funds set aside on an annual basis for contingent liability for the past ten years to year end 2016; the way in which it is determined the amount that is forecast to be needed for contingent liability; if an actuary analysis for budgeting current and future contingent liability is carried out; and if a risk assessment in the context of contingent liability is carried out. [20923/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Public Financial Procedures set out that a contingent liability arises in any situation where past or current actions or events create a risk of a call on Exchequer funds in the future. Contingent liabilities are disclosed by way of a note to the appropriation account.

My Department has internal financial and risk assessment processes in place to identify any contingent liabilities. In the ten years to the end of 2016, there have been no items disclosed in the notes of the annual appropriation accounts of my Department with regard to such liabilities.

White Paper on Defence

Ceisteanna (92)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

92. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the White Paper projects that have been completed; and if project summary statements for closed projects are available. [21165/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The 2015 White Paper on Defence sets the defence policy agenda over a ten year planning horizon and encompasses all work carried out by the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces and Civil Defence. It comprehends the Government’s policy on defence of the State from armed aggression, the defence contribution to domestic security, the defence contribution to international peace and security and a broad range of other “non-security” roles which the Government require the Defence Forces and Civil Defence to undertake. It considers the defence capabilities required so that the Defence Forces can successfully deliver on the roles assigned by Government. Finally, the White Paper also considers implementation and the actions required to ensure that defence planning and provision processes are further developed.

During scoping of the White Paper implementation programme 88 actions or projects were specifically identified. These actions represent a subset of the totality of the work being carried out as part of the implementation programme for the White Paper. While it is currently intended to have all 88 projects initiated or completed by the end of the ten year implementation programme, work in certain areas will continue beyond 2025 in order to ensure that changes, improvements and actions envisaged in the White Paper are fully implemented and to assure that positive outcomes endure and are embedded in the day to day business of the Defence Organisation.

To date, 37 projects have been initiated with 10 more projects due to initiate during 2018. Of these, 5 projects have been completed and closed/transitioned to normal business with a number of other projects close to completion. The projects which have closed to date are set out in the following table along with a summary statement:

Number

Project Name

Summary Statement

5

Engagement with the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI), the Planning and Review Process (PARP) and the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC)

The project objective was for Ireland to continue to engage with the Partnership Interoperability Advocacy Group (formerly CFI), participate in the Planning and Review Process (PARP) and have joined the Operational Capabilities Concept, Evaluation and Feedback (OCC E&F) programme.

As part of the OCC E&F programme, Ireland selected a unit for the inaugural force package for participation in OCC E&F assessment to Level 1. This is the first step in a a two - year programme in which the unit will undertake two evaluations. Ireland also completed the full cycle of the PARP process; (i) Partnership Goals, (ii) Partnership Survey and (iii) Partnership Assessment. A lessons learned exercise was completed to identify and improve this process.

Ireland continues to participate in the informal Partnership Interoperability Advocacy Group discussions and took over as PIAG Co-Chair in January 2018 for one year, and will fill the Executive Officer position from mid-2018 (July) to mid 2019.

11

A review of Ireland's NRA, including those emergencies/crises that may threaten or impact on national security, will be undertaken in late 2015 by a subgroup of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning.

The objective of this project was to complete a review of the National Risk Assessment (NRA) and to adopt a revised NRA. The revised NRA for Ireland 2017 was completed and endorsed by the GTF on 8 March 2017. It was submitted to Government on 21 November 2017 and has been forwarded to the European Commission to continue the deliberative process at an EU and National level under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The NRA for Ireland 2017 enables the assessment of risk management capabilities and the prioritisation of risk mitigation, which will be led by the lead Departments/Agencies responsible for the risks identified in the NRA. This will be monitored on an on-going basis by the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning, chaired by the Minister with Responsibility for Defence.

22

Develop a new employment support scheme with the direct involvement of the Defence Forces

The White Paper gave a commitment to develop a pilot Employee Support Scheme (ESS). The pilot programme for the scheme was conducted by 2 Bde in Gormanston in 2016 at a total cost of €259,116. Following successful evaluation of the pilot programme, the Minister approved a three year roll out of the Scheme (2017-2019), with up to 2 iterations of the programme to be scheduled each year. 2 iterations of the programme were held in mid and late 2017 (in Limerick and Gormanston). Another iteration is scheduled for summer 2018 (June in Cork) and the 2nd iteration for 2018 is currently provisionally scheduled for later this year in the DFTC. Funding has been secured from the European Social Fund for the iterations of the scheme outlined in the 3 year implementation plan. As part of the roll out, it was agreed that a full review of the Scheme be scheduled for 2020 which would comprehensively evaluate "Value for Money" in relation to the Scheme. In addition to this, an interim review of the roll out of the Scheme is also underway at present.

62

Regarding Civilian Employee vacancies, the Department will in the short term, initiate a programme of targeted recruitment to address priority vacancies, In the medium term, the Department will identify the areas that are most in need.

The project objective was to fill a number of vacancies for civilian employees. 40 posts identified at the start of the Project have now been filled and the successful applicants are now in place. In the case of some competitions, panels were formed from which any future vacancies may be filled.

79

The Department (Civil Defence Branch) will take the lead role in the Government's new Inter-agency Guidance Team (IGT) being established in order to enhance liaison under the Major Emergency Management.

The project objective was to establish an Inter-Agency Guidance Team (IGT) to assist with the future development of Civil Defence. The IGT was established in July 2016 and terms of reference were agreed. The IGT has met on several occasions to date and further meetings will take place. The IGT has been established in accordance with the commitment in the White Paper on Defence (2015) and is now part of the core business of the Civil Defence Branch of the Department.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (93)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

93. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of staff in his Department assigned solely or primarily to work on North-South issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21261/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Defence is not one of the agreed areas of North South co-operation set out in the Good Friday Agreement. In this context, no staff in the Department of Defence have North South roles assigned solely or primarily to them.

Army Barracks

Ceisteanna (94, 95)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

94. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if memorial plaques have been removed from Columb Barracks, Mullingar; and the person or body responsible for their removal. [21294/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

95. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of damage resulting from vandalism and neglect to the former Army barracks in Mullingar in the past 12 months. [21308/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 95 together.

As Columb Barracks is no longer required for military purposes, the current financial and administrative burden resulting from its retention cannot be sustained and my officials are proceeding with its disposal.

In relation to your question regarding memorial plagues in the Barracks my officials have advised me that they are not aware that any memorial plaques have been removed. However, if the Deputy is aware that plaques may have been removed, I would appreciate if he would advise my office and I will arrange to have the matter further examined.

Lakelands Security Ltd, engaged by my Department to provide security for the Barracks, advise my officials of all incidents of minor vandalism and anti-social behaviour which occur within the Barracks. There have been 5 incidents in the past year relating mainly to the breaking of windows and external doors of various buildings throughout the Barracks. All broken windows and doors have been boarded up to prevent possible illegal access to the buildings. Also, in the past year there have been three unsuccessful attempts to remove several of the internal gates within the Barracks. In November 2017 there was a small fire in a derelict building in the Barracks.

As a result of storm damage this winter, remedial repairs have recently taken place to the roofs of several buildings, including the Church. Following Storm Emma repairs were undertaken to fix a significant water leak within the grounds of the Barracks.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (96)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

96. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to examine additional recruitment measures to increase the numbers in the Defence Forces (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21320/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I have previously acknowledged retention challenges for certain specialists such as Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers and certain Technicians. This is reflective of the current economic circumstances and the availability of attractive job opportunities in the private and commercial semi-state sectors for such specialists.

To address vacancies in specialist positions, I have initiated a range of actions including directing civil and military management to develop proposals for the re-entry of suitably qualified former members of the Permanent Defence Force to fill such appointments. I have also directed that proposals for expanding direct entry for suitable posts also be developed. Work on these matters in ongoing.

An Teanga Gaeilge

Ceisteanna (97)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

97. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan den an Tánaiste agus Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus Trádála an aontaíonn sé gur cuid lárnach de phróiseas na síochána ó thuaidh í an reachtaíocht Ghaeilge agus í go fóill mar cheist chothromaíochta nach bhfuil réitithe, agus ag seasamh amach ó Chomhaontú Chill Rímhinn; agus an dtacóidh sé le moladh Chonradh na Gaeilge gur chóir an clásal seo a leanas a chur leis an rannóg Prótacail ar Éirinn ar leathanach 108 sa Dréacht-Chomhaontú Aistarraingthe:[1] “Gealltanas Rialtas RA agus na hÉireann, ar son reachtaíocht Ghaeilge i dTuaisceart Éireann de réir na gComhaontuithe 1998 agus 2006, á aisghairm. [20951/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Is nithe tábhachta de Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta iad éagsúlacht teangeolaíoch agus an Ghaeilge. Tá roinnt eilimintí de Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta agus Chomhaontú Chill Rímhinn nach bhfuil curtha i bhfeidhm go hiomlán go fóill, iad siúd a bhaineann le hAcht Gaeilge ina measc. Is é seasamh daingean an Rialtais ná go gcaithfidh Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta agus na Comhaontaithe comharba a bheith curtha i bhfeidhm ina hiomlán.

Rinneadh foráil i gComhaontú Chill Rímhinn i 2006 d’Acht Gaeilge i dTuaisceart Éireann a bheith achtaithe ag Rialtais na Breataine. Rinne Rialtais na hÉireann i ndiaidh a chéile, tacú le hAcht Gaeilge agus leanann muid ar aghaidh ag obair ar a son. Faraor, go dtí seo ní raibh aontas laistigh den Fheidhmeannas ar ábhar atá anois déabhlóidithe chun é a thabhairt chun cinn.

Tá an Tánaiste i dteagmháil go minic le Rialtas na Breataine agus na páirtí i dTuaisceart Éireann maidir le athbhunú an Feidhmeannas agus chur i bhfeidhm gealltanais Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta agus na Comhaontaithe comharba, Acht Gaeilge do Thuaisceart Éireann san áireamh.

Ní bheadh sé oiriúnach foráil a dhéanamh d’Acht Gaeilge mar chuid den dréacht Comhaontú d’Astarraignt na Breataine ón Aontas Eorpach ós rud é nach bhfuil ach dlínse fíor-teoranta ag an Aontas Eorpach maidir leis an ceist seo, tá gealltanais soiléir i gComhaontú Aoine an Chéasta agus na gComhaontaithe comharba agus ní aontaíonn sé le nadúr agus aidhm an dréacht Comhaontú. Tá ról i bhfad níos mó ag Comhairle na hEorpa a bhfuil freagrach don Coinbhinsiúin Frámaíocht ar son Cosaint Mionlach Naisiúnta a dhaignigh Éire i 1999 ag comhlíonadh an gealltanas i gComhaontú Aoine an Chéasta.

Syrian Conflict

Ceisteanna (98, 109)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

98. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the work he undertook to encourage EU and UN member states to pursue a full diplomatic resolution to the Syrian conflict in relation to the EU UN Syria Donor Conference in Brussels that took place on 24 and 25 April 2018; the steps he will take to ensure an increase in humanitarian assistance to displaced Syrians that require urgent assistance after seven years of conflict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20813/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

109. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he raised at the recent EU Foreign Affairs Council the need for the European Union and its member states to increase humanitarian assistance to Syria and the adjoining region and also to provide improved assistance to displaced Syrians; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20909/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 109 together.

The conflict in Syria, now in its eighth year, continues to drive the world's largest protection and displacement crisis. In the first three months of 2018, we have witnessed some of the highest levels of displacement since the crisis began. Over 6.6 million people are displaced inside Syria alone, and a further 5.6 million people have fled to neighbouring countries and the region.

Responding to and resolving this crisis remains high on the international agenda, including for Ireland. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney T.D., discussed the situation in Syria with his EU colleagues at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC)in February, March and April. At the FAC in April, Foreign Ministers condemned in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and stressed the need to ensure full legal accountability for those responsible for such crimes. Ministers also reiterated the EU’s support for the UN-led political negotiations to end the conflict, and the urgent need to reinvigorate the political track. The Tánaiste reaffirmed the need to avoid any escalation of the situation in Syria, and the importance of ensuring accountability for the use of chemical weapons. The EU provides direct assistance to the UN-led Geneva peace talks, and has launched, in coordination with the UN, an initiative to develop political dialogue with key actors from the region to identify common ground.

Last month, I led Ireland’s delegation to the Second Brussels Conference for Syria and the region, at which Ireland reaffirmed its support for the UN-led efforts to bring about a resolution to the conflict and called on the international community, particularly those with influence on the parties to the conflict, to redouble efforts to ensure a ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian access.

Ireland condemned the repeated breaches of international law which have taken place in Syria, and called for full legal accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly the use of chemical weapons.

I personally met with key EU and UN humanitarian and political partners, including EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and reiterated concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian and protection situation in Syria, including for displaced Syrians.

Ireland is a strong and consistent donor to the Syria crisis response and our funding supports those in need inside Syria as well as Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in the region. At the Brussels Conference, Ireland pledged €25 million in humanitarian support for 2018 - maintaining the same level of assistance as provided last year. Given the urgency of humanitarian needs inside Syria and across the region, over €16 million of this funding has already been disbursed. This brings Ireland’s support since 2012 to over €109 million – our largest ever response to a single crisis.

In recognition of the need for more effective, longer-term responses for those affected by the crisis – including displaced Syrians and host communities in neighbouring countries – Ireland also made a commitment to provide multi-annual, predictable assistance in response to the Syria crisis beyond 2018. Such support will provide for more sustainable basic service delivery, including education for displaced children and youths.

Ultimately, only a political resolution to the conflict will bring lasting relief to the suffering of the Syrian people. In the interim, Ireland remains committed in our humanitarian response, and will continue to work with our EU and UN partners to ensure timely and effective humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.