Defence Forces Personnel

Ceisteanna (19)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

19. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to engage with the military authorities and the representative organisations of the Defence Forces in respect of the application of the working time directive to Defence Forces personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40816/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Work is well underway to apply the provisions of the Directive to members of the Permanent Defence Force. The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces have already undertaken significant work in examining the application of the Working Time Directive. It is necessary to ensure that all work arrangements meet all of the provisions of the Directive, including arrangements to manage changes in work practices.

The application of the Directive will involve a fundamental change in working conditions that have been in place for many years. It is a complex arrangement that requires considerable thought to ensure that on the one hand, employees' right are recognised and, on the other, that the Defence Forces continue to provide the varied roles assigned to them by Government.

The Department of Defence is currently engaging through the Conciliation and Arbitration process with the Defence Forces Representative Associations, RACO and PDFORRA, to discuss the application of the Working Time Directive to the Permanent Defence Force. A Working Group has been formed for this purpose.

Concurrently, Department is engaging with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on required legislative changes. The Department of Justice and Equality is also a key stakeholder in this process.

Litigation taken by a member of the Permanent Defence Force in respect of the applicability of certain elements of the Working Time Directive to the Defence Forces was settled recently in the High Court having regard to the specific circumstances of that case. Further litigation in relation to the Working Time Directive as it relates to the Defence Forces is pending.

For these reasons it would not be appropriate to comment further.

Defence Forces Representative Organisations

Ceisteanna (20)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

20. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of times he has met with organisations (details supplied) in an official capacity to discuss issues affecting Defence Forces personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40817/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Defence (Amendment) Act 1990 and Defence Force Regulations S6 provided for the establishment of representative associations for members of the Permanent Defence Force. The associations that have since been established are RACO (for commissioned officers) and PDFORRA (for enlisted personnel).

The scheme of Conciliation and Arbitration (C&A) for members of the Permanent Defence Force provides a formal mechanism for the determination of claims and proposals from the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations relating to remuneration and conditions of service.

Officials from my Department continue to work with the Representative Associations in a positive and collaborative process within the C&A Scheme to resolve issues. There is also ongoing engagement on a regular basis between the Official side and the Representative side on a range of items which are processed through C&A.

Since my appointment as Minister with responsibility for Defence, I have met with representatives from RACO and PDFORRA on a number of occasions, both formally and informally.

In 2016, I met both RACO and PDFORRA in July. I attended the PDFORRA Annual Delegate Conference in October and the RACO Annual Banquet in November.

In 2017, I met had meetings with RACO and PDFORRA in July and October. I attended the PDFORRA Annual Delegate Conference in October and the RACO Biennial Delegate Conference in November.

In 2018, I met with officials from PDFORRA in September and just last week I attended the PDFORRA Annual Delegate Conference which took place in Breaffy House Hotel in Co. Mayo. I am also scheduled to attend the RACO Annual Delegate Conference next month.

Defence Forces Contracts

Ceisteanna (21)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

21. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to review the practice whereby continuance in service contracts are offered after two years; if this period will be extended to five years as a measure to address retention issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40818/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The White Paper on Defence sets the defence policy agenda up to 2025. As a subset of the totality of the work being carried out to implement the White Paper, nearly 90 projects/actions were specifically identified. Implementation of these specific actions will be carried out on a phased basis over the ten year period of the programme.

The review to which the Deputy refers forms part of one such project which entails a review of contracts of service for all ranks of enlisted personnel in the context of capability requirements and associated appropriate age profiles. Joint civil/military project planning is underway for this project.

Defence Forces Contracts

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 12.

Ceisteanna (22)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

22. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel on post-21 years service contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40819/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The military authorities could not collate the information within the time available. I will revert to the Deputy as soon as the information has been provided to me.

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 12.

Defence Forces Personnel Data

Questions Nos. 25 and 26 answered with Question No. 12.

Ceisteanna (24)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

24. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of personnel that have been discharged by purchase over each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40821/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The information sought by the Deputy could not be collated within the time available. I will revert to the Deputy as soon as the information is available.

Questions Nos. 25 and 26 answered with Question No. 12.

Defence Forces Representative Organisations

Ceisteanna (27)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

27. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to publish the review of the conciliation and arbitration scheme report; his further plans to implement the findings of the report; the timeframe for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40825/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Conciliation and Arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force provides a formal mechanism for the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations, that is PDFORRA and RACO, to engage with the Official side.

Having regard to commitments made under pay agreements, members of the Permanent Defence Force can make representations in relation to their pay and conditions of service through their representative bodies.

The scheme, since its inception in the early 1990’s has provided the framework to progress many successful negotiated agreements between Defence management, PDFORRA and RACO. In light of the many changes in the industrial relations landscape since the establishment of the scheme earlier this year I announced a fundamental review of the scheme, to ensure that it remained efficient and effective for all parties.

I appointed Mr. Gerard Barry to carry out a review of the scheme. I received Mr. Barry's report on the review of the scheme last week. The report has been sent to all parties to the scheme, that is the Department of Defence, Defence Forces, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, PDFORRA and RACO for their consideration. The report was published for general viewing on the Department of Defence website www.defence.ie on 2 October 2018.

All parties to the scheme are now considering the findings and recommendations outlined in the Report and, following an appropriate timeframe, the parties will engage in further discussions. A timeframe to finalise a revised Scheme has not been agreed as yet.

Army Barracks

Ceisteanna (28)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

28. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if funding will be provided for the upgrade of the block 7 accommodation facility at Connolly Barracks in the Defence Forces training centre; when this project will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40869/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The accommodation facility known as Connolly, Block 7 is a two-storey building that accommodates recruits in an open plan ‘transit accommodation” layout. The ground floor of the building was repainted in 2018 and no further work to the block is currently deemed necessary or proposed.

Under the Defence Forces Built Infrastructure programme it is planned to upgrade and refurbish the accommodation block at the DFTC known as Plunkett, Block 7.

A multi-discipline Design Team has been appointed for the project. The team is presently working on the development of the detailed proposals for the proposed refurbishment of the block, with a view to tenders for the works being sought in 2019, subject to approval to proceed with the tender process and the overall level of funding provision for the programme for next year.

Defence Forces Personnel

Ceisteanna (29)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

29. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if information regarding the discovery of a spyhole in the female shower area of the central supply area of the Naval Service was circulated to all female personnel in the Naval Service that may have utilised those facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41078/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

In my reply on this matter to your earlier PQ, no. 39876/18, I undertook to revert to you with more information.

I have been informed by the military authorities that the Naval Service has confirmed that female personnel who are known to work in the Central Supply Section (CSS) building where the female shower/changing area is located have been made aware of the nature of the investigation.

Defence Forces Medicinal Products

Ceisteanna (30)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

30. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of the anti-malarial drugs prescribed to the Defence Forces operating in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017 and to date in 2018; and the number of troops prescribed each drug respectively, in tabular form. [41087/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I have requested the information sought by the Deputy from the Military Authorities and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (31, 32)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

31. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to a report by an organisation (details supplied) in relation to medical care in Bahraini prisons; his views on the lack of adequate medical care in Bahrain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40727/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

32. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Bahraini Government has announced that parliamentary elections will take place on 24 November 2018 and that members of the main opposition groups are barred from running in the elections (details supplied); and his views on whether the upcoming elections cannot be considered as democratic. [40728/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 32 together.

I am aware of reports that prisoners in Bahrain have been denied adequate healthcare in prison. Ireland attaches great importance to safeguarding the human rights of all prisoners, with due regard for the international standards enshrined in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

As I have stated in this House previously, I remain very concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain. Although Bahrain has repeatedly stated its commitment to improving its human rights record and safeguarding human rights as enshrined in the Bahraini Constitution, there are ongoing instances of violations of fundamental freedoms there, including violations of freedom of opinion and expression.

As the Deputy notes, the shrinking of civil and political space is particularly worrying in light of parliamentary elections which will take place in November this year. Good governance and accountability are vital for the realisation of human rights, and Ireland is committed to encouraging full participation in democratic processes. I am aware of reports that many opposition groups have been dissolved and that their members have been barred from running for election. These developments suggest an increasingly restrictive approach, targeting those who express views which oppose or challenge the Government in any way, including through parliamentary election processes.

Ireland regularly conveys its concerns about human rights to the Bahraini authorities, including through the Bahraini Embassy in London and through Ireland’s (non-resident) Ambassador to Bahrain. In February of this year, officials from my Department met with the Ambassador of Bahrain in Dublin, and raised Ireland’s concerns about the human rights situation in Bahrain.

Ireland also regularly raises the case of human rights in Bahrain at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, in the form of national statements and its support to EU Statements. In Ireland’s most recent Item 4 Statement (human rights situations that require the Council’s attention) at the HRC session in September 2018, we expressed our concerns about “the ongoing restrictions on civil society space and the treatment of human rights defenders in Bahrain”. We also called on Bahrain “to respect freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to a fair trial.” At the previous HRC session in June 2018, Ireland also raised concerns under Item 4, and the EU in its Item 2 Statement (on the reports of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) also highlighted the deterioration of the human rights situation, with particular reference to the shrinking of political space in Bahrain.

My Department will continue to monitor the situation in Bahrain, and will continue to call on the Bahraini Government to make good on their stated commitment to make progress in the area of human rights.

Visa Applications

Ceisteanna (33)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

33. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there is a facility for a Filipino citizen applying for a visa to deal with a named official in his Department here rather than having to liaise with officials from the consulate in Manila; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40799/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland has no Embassy in the Philippines and no Irish officials working there. The Embassy of Ireland to Singapore is currently accredited on a non-residential basis to the Philippines. You will be aware, however, that the Government announced in June this year the opening of a new Embassy in the Philippines as part Global Ireland 2025. The new mission will be operational by the end of 2020. At present, visa services in the Philippines are provided by our Honorary Consul in Manila. The consulate in Manila accepts applications for decision either by our Embassy in Singapore or the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, a non-statutory agency of the Department of Justice and Equality. It is the policy of the Government that applicants resident in the Philippines submit their application for a visa through the consulate in Manila. Any person who has concerns about the services provided by an Irish Embassy or Consulate overseas can bring the matter to the attention of the Corporate Services Division of my department.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (34)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

34. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the situation in South Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40828/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

South Sudan continues to endure an ongoing crisis, in large part the consequence of civil war. Since the most recent outbreak of conflict in 2015, over 50,000 people have been killed and more than 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The effects of the conflict on civilians has been exacerbated by drought, leading to severe food insecurity and the threat of famine and, in turn, massive population displacement.

On 12 September last, the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, signed a peace agreement with rebel factions, opening the possibility for change. While this peace agreement has the potential to mark a new departure, it is critical that South Sudan’s leaders implement it without delay. The full cessation of violence and the facilitation of unimpeded humanitarian access would be important confidence building measures, but achieving lasting peace will require sustained effort and commitment as well as a genuinely inclusive approach to building the future South Sudan.Ireland strongly supports efforts to build peace in South Sudan.

Last November, during his visit to Addis Ababa, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade met representatives of IGAD (the Intergovernmental Authority on Development) and the African Union to discuss the situation in South Sudan.Ireland provides financial support to facilitate the IGAD-led High Level Revitalisation Forum for peace negotiations.

Departmental officials, in particular the Embassy in Addis Ababa, which has responsibility for South Sudan, continue to monitor the situation closely and engage with local, regional and international parties to encourage progress. The Irish Ambassador in Addis Ababa has visited Juba on a number of occasions, including most recently last month, where she met with key government, UN, NGO, Red Cross and diplomatic partners.Two Departmental officials have been seconded to the European External Action Service mission in Juba.

In addition, Ireland is responding to the continuing humanitarian need in South Sudan, with over €61 million in humanitarian assistance provided since 2012. Over €10 million in Irish funding has been provided so far this year, most recently to the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund and to UNICEF to assist their responses to a worsening humanitarian situation. Irish funding supports those in need inside South Sudan and South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries.

Western Balkans Issues

Ceisteanna (35)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

35. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the situation in Macedonia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40829/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

On 30 September, Macedonian citizens had the opportunity to vote on the Prespa Agreement, which was signed on 17 June by the Greek and Macedonian Foreign Ministers and proposes changing the name of the country to the Republic of North Macedonia, potentially ending a dispute between the two neighbours that has lasted for decades. I want to commend those who voted in the consultative referendum, and acknowledge the political leadership and courage shown by the Macedonian and Greek governments in coming to an agreement on the issue.

It was a peaceful and democratic vote, in which 94% of votes cast were in favour of the Agreement. This represents a positive result, despite the turnout being low at 37%. A threshold of 50% turnout is required if the outcome of a Macedonian referendum is to be regarded as legally binding. However, as the referendum was only consultative in nature, failure to reach this threshold does not prevent politicians in Skopje from pressing ahead with the Prespa Agreement. The Agreement must now be ratified by the parliaments of both countries, beginning with the Macedonian Assembly, if it is to enter into force and if the proposed name change is to become effective. As such, it is now in the hands of parliamentarians in Skopje to decide on a way forward which can command broad support in the wake of this result. I would urge them to engage constructively with each other now and seize this historic opportunity. The successful resolution of this issue will not only set a much-needed example for reconciliation in the region, but will also decisively move the country forward on its European path.

Ireland continues to be a strong supporter of Skopje’s European perspective, and indeed of the European perspective of the Western Balkans region as a whole. We were pleased to see the European Commission begin the initial preparatory work in Macedonia’s accession process in late September, following the Council’s decision to set out the path towards opening negotiations in June 2019. We hope that momentum can be maintained in the process over the coming months.

International Election Monitoring

Ceisteanna (36)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

36. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the result of the election monitoring panel competition which closed on 20 August 2018; the number of monitors nominated; the way in which his Department will conduct competitions in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40865/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I refer the Deputy to the response to a previous parliamentary question on this matter, Question 69 of 7 September 2018, as well as to responses to the following related parliamentary questions: Questions 103 and 104 of 24 July 2018, Questions 57 and 58 of 3 July 2018, Question 107 of 24 April 2018 and Question 16 of 25 January 2018. The call for applications to establish a new election observation roster was issued on 2 July. A total of 395 applications were received by the deadline of 17.30 on the 20 August 2018.

All applications were subject to screening to confirm that they met the essential criteria, as set out in the Volunteer Information Booklet.

The appraisal process has not yet been concluded. Training is now being put in place for the appraisal panels which will assess all those applications which met the aforementioned essential criteria. Language proficiency will also be verified. Once the appraisal process is complete, prior to being placed on the roster all successful applicants will be required to undergo vetting by An Garda Síochána or the appropriate policing authority.

As the current process remains ongoing, no consideration has been given at this stage as how future replenishments of the election observation roster would be managed.