Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (62)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

62. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number, date of publication and details of post-enactment reports published by his Department since March 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51370/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

There have been no post-enactment reports published by my Department since March 2011.

In general, legislation emanating from the Department of Defence is focused on the Defence Forces only and does not apply to the ordinary citizen or the business community.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (63)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

63. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Acts passed since March 2011 that his Department is responsible for; the date each Act was signed into law in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51386/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Act

Date signed by the President

Defence (Amendment) Act 2011

26 July 2011

Civil Defence Act 2012

26 December 2012

Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Act 2013

14 May 2013

Defence (Amendment) Act 2015

22 July 2015

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (64)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

64. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the grant and funding schemes operated by his Department; the value of each scheme; and the basis or criteria used for the allocation of funding in respect of each scheme. [51402/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

My Department provides operational grants to each local authority in relation to running costs for Civil Defence. My Department also pays a grant to the Irish Red Cross towards it's administration costs. In addition, for the past four years, my Department allocated funding to the Irish Red Cross for distribution to small businesses, sporting, community and voluntary organisations that were flooded during severe weather events but were unable to secure flood insurance. All grants are paid in line with public financial procedures.

Civil Defence training and operations are funded by a combination of annual operational grants from my Department and a contribution from the relevant local authority on a 70/30 basis. The annual operational grant from my Department covers 70% of the running costs of Civil Defence annually, with the local authority providing the remaining 30%. The total amount provided in annual operational grants to the local authorities in 2017 was €2,720,938.

A grant may also be provided to a local authority upon receipt and consideration of an application or request, towards the purchase of vehicles and/or equipment for use by Civil Defence personnel. In 2017, local authorities received €679,199 under this heading.

My Department regularly provides financial support to local authorities towards the cost of running training exercises, often in conjunction with the Primary Response Agencies. In 2017, six major Civil Defence regional exercises were run throughout the country and the Department of Defence provided a total of €70,845 in grants to the local authorities that hosted these exercises.

My Department also runs a scheme to reimburse the cost of immunising Civil Defence volunteers against Hepatitis B and tetanus. A total of €7,336 was paid out under this heading in 2017.

The basis for grants towards Civil Defence is set out in the Civil Defence Act, 2012.

My Department made an annual grant payment of €900,000 to the Irish Red Cross in 2018. This included Ireland’s contribution of €130,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross. This was an increase from €869,000 in 2017 and was agreed following receipt and examination of a detailed business case submitted by the Irish Red Cross. The annual grant is paid in quarterly instalments and each year my Department receives a report from the Society providing full details of how the previous year’s grant was utilised and details of how it is to be used in the current year.

The basis for the annual grant payments that are made to the Irish Red Cross are set out in the Irish Red Cross Act, 1938.

The total funding provided to the Irish Red Cross for distribution under the flooding schemes for small businesses and other bodies was €4.032 million over a four year period. The cost of each of the four schemes was as follows:

Storm Desmond (Dec 2015/Jan 2016) - €3.1 million

Donegal (August, 2017) - €586,000

Laois (November 2017) - €3,000

Storm Eleanor (January 2018) - €343,000

These four schemes were launched following separate Government decisions on each occasion. In November 2018, the Government established a standing scheme to deal with any further similar flooding events. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation will be responsible for the standing scheme.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (65)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

65. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the recent events between Russia and Ukraine; the EU response to this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51262/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The recent events between Russia and Ukraine are a matter for grave concern and we are working closely with our EU partners to monitor developments and respond appropriately.

I fully support the declaration on the matter by HR/VP Mogherini of 28 November on behalf of EU Member States. The declaration expresses the EU's utmost concern at the dangerous increase of tensions in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait which led to the seizure of Ukrainian vessels and their crews by Russia, expresses dismay at this use of force by Russia which, against the backdrop of increasing militarisation in the area, is unacceptable.

In this context, the declaration called on Russia to release the captured vessels, their crew and equipment unconditionally and without delay.

Ireland continues to support Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We do not recognise the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation.

I would call on all to exercise the utmost restraint to de-escalate the situation immediately.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Ceisteanna (66)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

66. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the potential for Irish citizens to receive E3 visas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51263/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I very much welcome the passing of an Irish E3 visa Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives on 28 November last.

Both the Taoiseach and I have raised the issue of immigration with the U.S. Administration at every opportunity, and I am pleased to report that this particular initiative has the support of the Administration, and of House Speaker, Paul Ryan. The House Bill itself was sponsored by Congressman James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Congressman Richie Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, Co-Chair of the Friends of Ireland, whom I met recently here in Dublin.

The Bill will now be considered in the U.S. Senate. Although the timing has not been confirmed, this may happen as early as next week. In order to pass in the Senate, the Bill would require 60 votes in favour and none against. While current signals are positive, there is no guarantee the legislation will pass successfully.

If passed in the Senate, the Bill would add Irish citizens to those who are eligible for E3 visas, potentially opening up 4,000 approx. visas each year to Irish citizens who wished to work in the US for a period. The spouses and children of those who qualify would receive additional visas and would not count against this cap. The Bill as passed by the House of Representatives would mean Irish citizens would be eligible to apply for those E3 visas that Australian citizens had not used in the previous year. The current E3 Bill references reciprocity on the Irish side and, were a successful E3 scheme for Irish citizens to be agreed by the U.S. Senate, a similar reciprocal scheme would be put in place here designed specifically for U.S. citizens.

Our Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Government’s Special Envoy to the U.S. Congress on the Undocumented, Mr. John Deasy T.D., have remained in ongoing contact with key Administration and Congressional figures, as well as other partners on the Bill, including the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers and other key Irish community leaders. I understand that there is cautious support for the Bill among this group, and a recognition that, while it is limited, the current political context in the US does not lend itself to a more ambitious initiative.

While this Bill unfortunately does not address the situation of the Irish in the US who are undocumented, the Embassy and the Consulates in the US, working with Special Envoy Deasy, will continue to explore with the U.S. Administration whether any possibilities might exist to identify pathways to waivers for undocumented Irish. It is hoped that, in a future more benign political context, it might be possible to secure such pathways for the Irish undocumented to regularise their status. In any case, the Government will continue to raise the position of the undocumented at every opportunity.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (67)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

67. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on efforts to recommence the executive in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51264/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Irish and British Governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, have been working tirelessly since the Northern Ireland Assembly elections of March 2017 to support and facilitate the political parties in their efforts to form a new power-sharing Executive.

However, as yet, it has not proved possible to reach an agreement on the formation of an Executive, despite intensive engagement. The absence of the Executive also means that that North South Ministerial Council cannot meet. I am currently engaging with Secretary of State Bradley on how both Governments can most effectively secure the full operation of all of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement in the period ahead.

I met with Secretary of State Bradley in Dublin on 17 September, in Belfast on 8 October, and most recently in Dublin on 2 November at the British Irish Inter-Governmental Conference. I spoke further with the Secretary of State by telephone on Monday 12 November.

In my discussions with Secretary of State Bradley, I have underlined the Government’s deep concern at the continuing impasse with the devolved institutions, which she shares.

I have also set out the Government’s view that the legislation that was brought forward by the Secretary of State which temporarily suspends the requirement to call an Assembly election underlines the seriousness of the absence of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, and the urgent requirement for all with responsibilities to do everything in their power to get them operating again.

Secretary of State Bradley has confirmed that this legislation is temporary and time-bound and that it operates to provide the necessary scope to get the institutions back in place.

Secretary of State Bradley and I have in this context reaffirmed the strong determination of both Governments to get the devolved institutions up and running again. We are agreed that a new political process is required to secure the necessary agreement between the parties that will see the Assembly and Executive operating again on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.

Both Governments are continuing to engage with all of the political parties to seek a way forward. All parties have re-affirmed their commitment to operating the devolved institutions and have provided views on their key concerns and issues.

I do not underestimate the way to go in achieving a way forward, but I continue to believe that a resolution is possible.

The calls from across all sections of the community in Northern Ireland for the devolved institutions to operate have to be heeded.

The Government will continue to do everything in its power, in accordance with its responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (68)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

68. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the disputed territory of Western Sahara; the EU position on this territory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51317/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland and the EU recognise the United Nation’s classification of Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory. We fully support the ongoing UN efforts to assist the parties in reaching a lasting political resolution to the dispute in Western Sahara.

Ireland supports the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, but does not have a view on the outcome of that decision, be it independence, integration, autonomy, or some other solution – so long as it is decided in a genuine exercise of self-determination. While Ireland does not recognise the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, the state declared by the Polisario Front, we do recognise the Polisario Front as a party to the dispute, and my officials meet regularly with its representatives to seek their views on the current situation.

On 31 October 2018, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2440 on Western Sahara, extending the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for a six-month period. In extending the mandate, the Security Council also called upon all the concerned parties to demonstrate political will to advance the negotiations towards an enduring political solution.

The Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Horst Köhler, has conducted extensive stakeholder consultations in recent months. These consultations have resulted in the roundtable meeting on Western Sahara which is being held in Geneva this week, with representatives from Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria and Mauritania. I welcome this meeting as a very positive step by all the parties participating, and I hope that it will lead to the renewal of the negotiations process. I call on all parties to engage in good faith with the UN Envoy’s mediation process, which Ireland fully supports. This is the only path towards a sustainable resolution of the conflict which is mutually acceptable, and provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (69)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

69. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in South Sudan; the efforts being made by Ireland, the EU and the international community to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51318/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

South Sudan continues to endure a terrible humanitarian crisis, primarily the consequence of conflict. I am deeply concerned by the continued high level of violence, and by reports of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, which perpetuate the crisis and impact negatively on its scale.

The current conflict began in 2013 and has had devastating consequences for civilians. The war, compounded by drought, has led to severe food insecurity and caused massive population displacement and suffering throughout the country, with women and girls suffering the most. More than 400,000 people have died and an estimated 7 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance.

On 12 September last, the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, signed a peace agreement with the opposition. While this peace agreement has the potential to mark a new departure, it is critical that South Sudan’s leaders implement it without delay. 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. In November 2017, during his visit to Addis Ababa, the Tánaiste met representatives of IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) and the African Union to discuss the situation in South Sudan. On that visit, the Tánaiste announced funding to the IGAD High Level Revitalisation Forum, the process which delivered the revised peace agreement. Ireland will continue to support IGAD’s work on monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the agreement in 2019.

Our Embassy in Addis Ababa, which is accredited to South Sudan, monitors the situation and engages with local, regional and international parties on an ongoing basis. The Irish Ambassador in Addis Ababa visits Juba frequently where she meets with key government, UN, NGO, Red Cross and diplomatic partners, including the EU Delegation. Her most recent visit took place last week.

We are committed to supporting efforts towards peace in South Sudan and have contributed to projects aimed at peacebuilding. In 2018, this has included supporting partners’ meditation efforts and empowering civil society, in particular women’s groups, to facilitate their engagement in peace processes. As well as our direct bilateral support, we are actively involved in the efforts of the EU to support peace in South Sudan. Two officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been seconded to the EU Delegation in South Sudan, including one as Head of Mission. The EU Delegation is strongly supportive of the peace process, in particular by providing support to the implementing and monitoring bodies of the peace agreement. The Tánaiste discussed these efforts with the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Alexander Rondos, when he visited Dublin on 7 November.

While a sustained resolution to the conflict is the ultimate goal, we have a duty now to deal with immediate humanitarian needs. Since 2012, Ireland has provided €61 million in direct humanitarian assistance to South Sudan. Over €10 million in Irish funding has been provided so far this year, including to Irish NGOs to assist them in reaching the most vulnerable. Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam, Trócaire and World Vision, with support from Irish Aid, are working in partnership with local organisations and NGO networks to provide lifesaving supplies to meet the basic needs of those suffering from the conflict.

As well as this direct bilateral aid, Ireland has also contributed significantly to humanitarian support in South Sudan through the multilateral system. Ireland is a significant contributor to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, which has allocated $187 million to alleviate the crisis in South Sudan since 2011, as well as to the EU, which has provided more than €90 million so far this year.

With humanitarian needs likely to remain acute in 2019, Irish funding will continue to support both those in need inside South Sudan as well as South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries.

EU Issues

Ceisteanna (70)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

70. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Hungary and the erosion of civil society and independent media; the steps that have been formally taken at EU level to address this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51319/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

On 15 September last, the European Parliament adopted the Sargentini report - a reasoned proposal inviting the Council to determine whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the European Union is founded. The Hungarian government have issued a written response in relation to this report. The Commission has provided a paper on the values-related infringement procedures that it has taken to address concerns with the situation in Hungary.

At the next General Affairs Council meeting on 11 December, Ministers will have an exchange of views on these documents and the next steps forward. Ireland has previously made its concerns known in relation to issues surrounding the rule of law and recent legislation targeting non-governmental actors in Hungary. At this time of many challenges facing the Union it is more important than ever that we stand by our shared values.

I note the announcement on 3 December by the Central European University that it will be relocating to Vienna from Budapest from next January. Academic freedom is one of our fundamental values within the Union and it is a source of regret that an academic institute feels it has no other choice but to leave an EU member State in order to continue its operations.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (71, 72)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

71. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number, date of publication and details of post-enactment reports published by his Department since March 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51374/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

72. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Acts passed since March 2011 that his Department is responsible for; the date each Act was signed into law in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51390/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 72 together.

Since 2011 my Department has sponsored five items of legislation, as set out in the following table.

Post-enactment scrutiny was adopted for the duration of the 31st Dáil through Standing Order 141A, effective from 5 November 2013, and was adopted by Standing Order 164A for the 32nd Dáil. In that light, the requirement does not apply to the first three pieces of legislation listed as they pre-date the requirement.

The Diplomatic Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act and the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed Conflict (Hague Convention) Act, were both enacted in December 2017. Post-enactment reports for both of these are currently being prepared in accordance with the requirements of Standing Order 164A, and will be published in due course.

Name of Act

Year Enacted

Biological Weapons Act

2011

European Communities (Amendment) Act

2012

Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution Bill (Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) Act

2012

Diplomatic Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act

2017

Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed Conflict(Hague Convention) Act

2017

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (73)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

73. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the grant and funding schemes operated by his Department; the value of each scheme; and the basis or criteria used for the allocation of funding in respect of each scheme. [51406/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Department is responsible for two votes - Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs and Trade) and Vote 27 (International Cooperation).

The Irish Abroad Unit in my Department manages and coordinates the Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) in partnership with Ireland’s Embassies and Consulates abroad. This programme is a tangible expression of the Government’s support of, commitment to, and interest in the global Irish community. It aims to strengthen the international Irish community and its bond with Ireland. Through this programme the Government aims to fund projects that will have a clear and identifiable impact on supporting and building global Irish communities. Since its inception in 2004, the Emigrant Support Programme has assisted over 530 organisations in 36 countries with grants totaling over €170 million. In 2018, the total budget for the ESP was €11.595 million. Applications, which must be submitted via an online portal during a one month window from mid-January to mid-February are evaluated on a range of criteria, including the need for the project; beneficiaries in the Irish community; the impact of the project, partnerships with other statutory, voluntary and ESP-funded organisations; the total project cost and value for money offered; in addition to monitoring and evaluation systems in place and commitment to good governance. Applicant organisations should be established as registered charities, charitable bodies or voluntary/not for profit organisations. More detailed information is available here on my Department’s website.

Of the Department’s Diaspora Affairs budget, €600,000 was available in 2018 for strategic projects that engage the diaspora in support of existing Government Strategies, in particular those strategies which are most relevant to the wider work of this Department and which would support the work of the Inter-departmental Committee on the Irish Abroad. These projects could be led by the Irish Abroad Unit, or other units in the Department or in conjunction with other Departments/State Agencies, and decisions were based on detailed, costed proposals submitted by third parties which had a clear and measurable impacts linked to a wider and identified Government strategy.

The Reconciliation Fund, also administered by my Department, was established in 1982 to support civil society organisations in creating better understanding between the people and traditions of the island of Ireland, and also between Ireland and Britain. Over €50 million has been allocated to over 2,000 projects during this time. As part of the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, the Government committed to the continued allocation of €2.7 million annually to the Reconciliation Fund. An additional €1 million will be made available in 2019. Further information, including the criteria for allocation of funding and details of grants awarded previously, can be found here on the Department’s website.

Department’s Policy Planning Unit provides research grants to academic institutions and organisations to undertake specific pieces of foreign policy research. In 2018, Policy Planning Unit awarded a grant of €15,950 to the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) to prepare a paper on the environmental consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and testing, in support of Ireland’s nuclear non-proliferation policy. Grants are awarded to institutions or organisations which possess the requisite research expertise on the given topic.

Department also funds projects and proposals which further Ireland’s priorities under the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including: maximising the EU’s voice and influence on human rights issues; preserving international peace and security; supporting the UN and other multilateral organisations; and promoting disarmament and non-proliferation. Expenditure is divided into two categories. The first is mandatory payments under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) to the EU Institute for Security Studies and the EU Satellite Centre. There is also funding available for voluntary contributions in support of projects in the CFSP area. In 2018, a total of €513,000 was allocated under this heading; €173,000 for mandatory payments and €340,000 in respect of voluntary contributions.

For 2018, the Government has provided a gross allocation to Official Development Assistance (ODA) of in excess of €707 million. €500.126 million will be administered by the Development Cooperation Division (DCD) of my Department under Vote 27 – International Cooperation. A further estimated €207 million will be allocated through other Government Departments and Ireland’s share allocation of the EU Development Cooperation Budget.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) comprises Bilateral Assistance which is aid provided directly by Ireland to developing countries and Multilateral Assistance, which comprises un-earmarked funding channelled through multilateral and international organisations engaged in development cooperation.

In addition to the multilateral ODA managed through Vote 27, a significant proportion of Ireland’s multilateral ODA relates to assessed and voluntary contributions to international organisations managed through other Government Departments (mainly the Departments of Finance and Agriculture, Food and the Marine) and Ireland’s contribution to the EU Development Cooperation budget.

The funding administered by my Department under Vote 27 is delivered through a wide range of partners including non-governmental organisations, missionaries, UN agencies, international organisations and humanitarian agencies. Funding is also delivered via local, regional and national government systems aimed at, inter alia, building health, education and local government systems.

The Stability Fund was established by my Department in 2005 to provide support to a range of activities relating to peacebuilding and conflict prevention, civilian crisis management, post-conflict stabilisation and activities contributing to the implementation of Ireland’s commitments under UNSCR 1325. The budget allocation in 2018 is €6 million.

A small portion of the Vote 27 budget is administered by my Department’s Communications Unit. Africa Day is celebrated annually on 25 May and the public outreach team in Irish Aid oversee a national flagship event in Dublin to highlight the scope and benefits of Ireland’s engagement with Africa and increase public awareness of Irish Aid’s development programme throughout Africa. Local authorities around the country are encouraged to host their own regional Africa Day events, to engage citizens nationwide in celebrating Ireland’s historic links with Africa, and increase awareness of the work carried out by Irish Aid. To this end, the Africa Day regional fund, valued at €48,000, is open to applications from local authorities that wish to organise events linked to the Africa Day celebrations. Applications for funding from the scheme are judged based on a number of criteria including description and timing of the proposed event; how the event /activity will be managed; adequate governance including public indemnity insurance; proposed for Irish Aid and/or Ministerial participation; promotion and overall cost.

The Communications Unit also administers the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to assist and promote more and better quality media coverage of development issues in the Irish media. Two rounds of funding are allocated every year; one in summer, and one in winter. Applications focus on international development themes, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Applicants must demonstrate the relevance of their project to one or more of the seven Irish Aid Priority Areas for Action. These priority areas include hunger, climate change, trade and economic growth and human rights. The value of the scheme is €135,000 and applications are judged based on a number of criteria including quality of the proposal, including treatment (e.g. is the story engaging/well-developed/well-researched); value for money; audience reach; media reach in Ireland (including range of media platforms); focus on development/SDG issues/Irish Aid priority countries/focus on themes (climate change/sustainability/positive image of Africa/tackling stereotypes); and originality of project.

An annual report is produced each year and the 2017 report is now available on the Irish Aid website. This is a flagship of our accountability, transparency and engagement. It demonstrates the scope of our programme, how we are reaching the poorest and adapting to the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world.

Election Monitoring Missions

Ceisteanna (74)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

74. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if issues with the election observer roster appraisal process have been rectified (details supplied); the reason for the delay; the other steps required to finalise the process; the date on which persons will be placed on the new roster; the appeal process for unsuccessful candidates; the amount expended on consultancy fees to date regarding this process; the number of candidates who have applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51489/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

International election observation missions play an important role in the promotion of democracy and human rights. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade aims to ensure that, when requested, Ireland is represented at an appropriate level on international election observation missions. Irish observers participate primarily in missions organised by the European Union or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The process of establishing a new international election observer roster is at an advanced stage. It is expected that the new roster will be established on 1 January 2019.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is aiming to release results of the recent appraisal process shortly, following determination of the availability of an Appeals Panel. Information on the Appeals Process will be provided to candidates with their results. Once candidates have been informed, the Irish Aid website will be updated with information on the remaining stages in the process. These are: language verification for certain candidates, security vetting and the training of new roster members. Language verification and security vetting will run concurrently during the month of December. Training will be provided in January, with prioritisation given to candidates who have not been previously trained in election observation duties. Those shortlisted for the new roster will also be asked to undertake the online election observer training provided by the OSCE and the EU and to provide certification to the Elections Desk. Information on these courses will be provided along with results.

The costs incurred to date in the establishment of the new roster are approximately €15,000. This includes the training of the panels which appraised applications, the payments to external panel chairpersons and the cost of the quality assurance service.

395 applications were received by the deadline of 17:30 on 20 August 2018. Of the 395 total applications, 377 were deemed to have met the essential requirements listed on pages 3 and 4 of the Volunteer Information Booklet. These 377 applications were assigned to panels for stage 2 assessment. The 18 applicants deemed not to have passed the essential requirements check were informed on 15 November 2018 that their application was not successful.

Tax Collection

Ceisteanna (75)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

75. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners will contact a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51225/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that the person in question has a very significant tax debt which has been the subject of protracted legal proceedings. Current legal proceedings stand adjourned before the Examiner in the High Court until 16 January 2019.

Given the level of non-compliance and failure by the person concerned to engage satisfactorily with Revenue over a long period, I am advised by Revenue that it will not be deferring further legal action, as necessary, to seek to recover the significant debt owed in this instance.

If the person concerned wishes to make realistic payment proposals in advance of 16 January 2019, they should immediately contact Revenue’s external solicitors, Holmes O’ Malley Sexton, who are dealing with this matter. Such a proposal would need to address the full quantum of the outstanding tax debt, including interest, and recovery costs.

Central Bank of Ireland Supervision

Ceisteanna (76)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

76. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the Central Bank regulations relating to the use of plain language by financial institutions; the locations in which these regulations can be accessed; the input he has had on these regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51233/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Regulated financial service providers are required to comply with the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code 2012 (the Code) which is available on the Bank's website. The Code is a statutory code of conduct which imposes requirements regarding how regulated entities must engage with consumers.

Provision 4.1 of the Code requires that a regulated entity must ensure that all information it provides to a consumer is clear, accurate, up to date and written in plain English. Key information must also be brought to the attention of the consumer, with the method of presentation not disguising, diminishing or obscuring important information.

The Code is issued under powers granted to the Bank under section 117 of the Central Bank 1989 amongst other pieces of legislation. This section requires consultation with the Minister for Finance.

It should also be noted in the context of contracts provided to consumers, financial service providers are required to comply with the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995. These Regulations impose requirements in relation to the language to be used in consumer contracts. Regulation 5 provides that, in the case of contracts where all or certain terms offered to the consumer are in writing, the seller or supplier shall ensure that terms are drafted in plain, intelligible language and, where there is a doubt about the meaning of a term, the interpretation most favourable to the consumer shall prevail.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (77)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

77. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff in his Department who have a degree or higher degree level qualifications in economics; the proportion of staff who are so qualified in respect of the total staff of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51259/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Department of Finance is committed to building and expanding of the economic expertise and capability across all divisions of the Department, with the aim of developing a modern, professional and forward-looking Department.

Currently, a total of 98 staff within the Department hold at least one Economics qualification. A further 30 staff are presently undertaking Economics qualifications but have not received their final award to date. 22% of the total number staff in the Department hold either a Degree, Masters or Doctorate level qualification in economics (72 staff).

Table 1: All qualifications Department of Finance staff hold in Economics:

Level Achieved:

Number:

Certificate

20

Diploma

5

Degree

37

Masters

34

Doctorate

1

Other Qualifications in Economics

1

Total Number:

98

Table 2: Courses undertaken by Department of Finance staff who have not formally graduated to date:

Level to be Achieved:

Number:

Certificate

16

Degree

1

Masters

13

Total Number:

30

As part of ensuring a high level of Economics knowledge among staff, the Department of Finance partakes in the Refund of Fees Scheme. Through this scheme, the Department funds the academic fees for staff who are studying towards an accredited qualification.

As well as the Refund of Fees schemes, the Department of Finance, in co-operation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, organises a Certificate in Economics course (National Framework in Qualifications Level 6). This course is specifically designed to be a primer course for staff who do not have a specific academic background in economics, after which staff can chose to partake in further studies.

The Department continues to grow its expertise in the area of economics through the recruitment of staff via the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) and also through recruitment via the Public Appointments Service (PAS).

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (78, 79)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

78. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Finance the number, date of publication and details of post-enactment reports published by his Department since March 2011, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51373/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

79. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Finance the number of Acts passed since March 2011 that his Department is responsible for; the date each Act was signed into law in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51389/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 79 together.

It has not been possible in the time available to compile all the information sought in the Deputy's two PQs.

In relation to the Deputy’s PQ about post enactment reports (PQ 51373/18), the Deputy will be aware that Standing Order 164A of Dáil Eireann Standing Orders 2016 and Standing Order 168 of Seanad Eireann Standing Orders 2017 provide that "twelve months following the enactment of a Bill, save in the case of the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bill, the member of the Government or Minister of State who is officially responsible for implementation of the Act shall provide a report which shall review the functioning if the Act and which shall be laid in the Parliamentary library."

I can advise the Deputy that in the period in question, thirteen post enactment scrutiny reports (‘PESRs’) from my Department were prepared and laid in the Parliamentary library.

All thirteen PESRs have been laid in the Parliamentary library as required under the Standing Orders. Details on each Report are set out in the following table.

LEGISLATION IN QUESTION - DATE OF LAYING CORRESPONDING PESR

No.

Name of Act

Date

1

Credit Reporting Act 2013

02.10.18

2

Central Bank Act 2014

01.10.18

3

Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland Act 2014

01.10.18

4

Central Bank Amendment Act 2015

01.10.18

5

Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) Act 2015

01.10.18

6

Finance (Certain European Union and Intergovernmental Obligations) Act 2016

01.10.18

7

National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2014

01.10.18

8

Irish Collective Asset-management Vehicles Act 2015

14.11.18

9

Customs Act 2015

18.09.18

10

Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015

20.11.18

11

Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015

01.10.18

12.

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017

01.10.18

13.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Act 2017

14.08.18

As regards the Deputy’s PQ seeking the date of enactment of Acts passed since March 2011 for which my Department is responsible (PQ 51389/18), it has not been possible to collate that information in the time available and I will revert in writing to the Deputy later this month.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (80)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

80. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the grant and funding schemes operated by his Department; the value of each scheme; and the basis or criteria used for the allocation of funding in respect of each scheme. [51405/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Since 2015, my Department has administered the Fuel Grant Scheme for Disabled Drivers, which was introduced to replace the excise relief element of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme.

To qualify for the Scheme an applicant must be in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate. To qualify for a Primary Medical Certificate an applicant must satisfy one of the conditions set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations (SI 353 of 1994).

For 2017, €10 million was budgeted, of which €9.45 million was spent.

For 2018, €10 million was budgeted, of which €9.91 million has been spent to date.

For 2019, €10.5 million has been budgeted.

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Data

Ceisteanna (81)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

81. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Finance the average time for a complaint to be fully investigated and concluded by the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsmen from the initial complaint to final decision; the number of complaints received and investigations completed in each of the past five years; if his attention has been drawn to the perceived lengthy delays to the complaints investigation process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51429/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman is independent in the performance of his functions. I understand that each complaint is different and is dealt with based on its own merits.

That said, the Office of the Financial Service and Pensions Ombudsman has provided the following information based on the work of the Financial Services Ombudsman for the year 2017 in relation to his dispute resolution service and his formal processes of investigation and adjudication.

Dispute resolution provides a flexible and innovative approach to complaint resolution. For those complaints closed in 2017 via Dispute Resolution using mediation techniques:

- 43% were closed within 2 months

- 67% were closed within 4 months

- 79% were closed within 6 months

- 21% took over 6 months to close.

Complaints not resolved through informal processes and considered to be within jurisdiction, are subsequently formally investigated and adjudicated. For those complaints closed in 2017 following a full investigation and written adjudication:

- 13% were closed within 1 year

- 65% were closed within 2 years

- 80% were closed within 3 years

- 20% took over 3 years to close.

As the investigation process involves regular exchanges of evidence, the length of this process is dependent on the number of submissions made by each party, and the complexity of the matters at hand.

The Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman has also provided the following table with details of complaints received and closed in 2014 to 2017 and also from January to October of 2018.

Year

Complaints received

Complaints closed

01.01.18 – 30.10.18

4937

3742

2017

4538

3867

2016

4,513

4323

2015

4,872

4915

2014

4477

5878

VAT Rebates

Ceisteanna (82)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

82. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the work that has been carried out to date on the scheme for VAT compensation for charities; when the scheme will commence; the persons or bodies that will be eligible to claim a refund of VAT; the amount available; the way in which it will operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51436/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

A draft Ministerial Order providing for the scheme has been prepared and is currently being reviewed by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. I expect to sign the Order before the end of the month.

I am advised that the Revenue Commissioners have developed systems to enable charities submit claims and to support processing and payment of claims. The facility to make claims under the scheme will be available on ROS from January 2019. In addition, there has been extensive consultation with Charities Institute Ireland concerning the details of the scheme and the administrative arrangements that will apply, and guidance will be published by Revenue after the Order is signed.

The scheme will take effect from 1 January 2018 but will be paid one year in arrears, so that in 2019, charities will be able to submit claims in respect of the VAT costs incurred in the calendar year 2018. A capped fund of €5 million will be available in 2019 to finance payments under the scheme. Claims can be submitted annually by charities who are registered with Revenue, hold a charitable tax exemption under Section 207 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and are registered with the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA). Additionally, they must hold a Tax Clearance Certificate and be in possession of a set of audited accounts for a financial year which ends no earlier than in the calendar year to which the claim relates.

Charities will be entitled to a refund of a proportion of their VAT costs based on the level of non-public funding they receive. For example, where a charity’s gross income for 2018 involves 30% funding from State/EU/international organisations and 70% from privately sourced income, they can claim 70% of their VAT input costs for the year. Where the total amount of claims in a year exceeds the capped amount, charities will be paid on a pro rata basis, i.e. where the total value of claims is double the capped pool amount, each charity will receive 50% of their claim.

Home Building Finance Ireland Establishment

Ceisteanna (83, 84, 85)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

83. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when HBFI will be fully established; the number of employees it plans to hire; the number of those who will be seconded from NAMA; the number who will be fully hired from NAMA; when he expects to have all employees in place and operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51473/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

84. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the €750 million to be drawn down by HBFI; when he expects HBFI to be in a position to lend money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51474/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

85. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the average loan to cost that the HBFI plans to provide to developers; the average interest rate for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51475/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 to 85, inclusive, together.

Home Building Finance Ireland (HBFI) is being established as one of a number of measures to address the housing crisis. It will provide a source of funding for small to medium sized residential developments on a commercial basis. The Home Building Finance Ireland Act was signed into law by the President this Monday, 3 December 2018. Much progress has been made in preparing HBFI for launch and it is expected that HBFI will commence receiving funding applications towards the end of January 2019.

It is currently expected that an initial team of c.23 staff members will be employed by HBFI as the company commences operations. Similar to NAMA and the SBCI, all HBFI officials will be seconded employees of the NTMA. In order to ensure that HBFI is established in the most efficient manner possible it is envisaged that the NTMA shall first draw upon any relevant resources, services and experience that are already available within NAMA when appointing staff to HBFI. NAMA has amassed considerable expertise in this area through the implementation of its existing residential funding programme and this will be a key asset for HBFI.

Ultimately, it will be a matter for the Board of HBFI to determine the precise staffing levels required which will be commensurate with the level of demand for lending from developers. As a result it is not possible to estimate either the total number of staff or the number of NAMA staff that may ultimately transfer to HBFI at this time. The recruitment and transfer of all staff will depend on HBFI's requirements and the availability of appropriate resources in NAMA at that point in time.

Upon incorporation the Minister will provide equity of €20m which will be used to fund HBFI’s initial start-up costs. ISIF will then be directed to lend the remaining funding, of up to €730m, to HBFI at a market rate of interest in order to fund delivery of residential property. It is envisaged that this funding will be made available on receipt of funding requests from HBFI, the exact scale and timing of these requests will be dependent on market demand.

Exact lending rates provided to developers will be determined on a case by case basis following a credit assessment, but must be equivalent to market rates in order to comply with EU State aid rules. Based on current market rates and having sought third party market advice, it is expected that minimum lending rates of c. Euribor+5% would be applied for projects with an LTC of less than <50% ranging up to c.+8% for projects at c.80% LTC. A borrowing entity must provide a minimum of 20% equity, which can include the site value and HBFI may fund up to 80% of the LTC (Loan to Cost) of a project. The maximum term of a loan facility is expected to be be 5 years. Full lending terms and conditions will be approved by the board of HBFI in due course.

Tax Treaties

Ceisteanna (86)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

86. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if there will be a cost to the Exchequer as a result of the deal struck with Malta to end the single malt tax strategy; if so, the amount on a full year basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51476/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Competent Authority Agreement outlines the shared understanding of the authorities in Ireland and Malta that the BEPS Multilateral Convention on Tax Treaties will, once it is in effect in both jurisdictions, make clear that it is not the purpose of the bilateral Ireland-Malta Tax Treaty to enable an aggressive tax planning structure referred to as the ‘Single Malt’. This Agreement will ensure that the Treaty does not enable that structure.

Currently, where payments are made by an Irish-resident company to an Irish-incorporated company which is managed and controlled in Malta, and such payments are not received in Malta, double non-taxation could arise: The payments will be tax-deductible in Ireland but will not be subject to tax in Malta as they are not received in Malta.

The purpose of the Competent Authority Agreement is to ensure that such double non- taxation will no longer occur. The relevant payments made by an Irish-resident company to an Irish-incorporated company which is managed and controlled in Malta will be subject to Irish corporation tax once the Competent Authority Agreement comes into effect and, on that basis, there will be no cost to the exchequer.