Military Medals

Ceisteanna (44)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

44. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will consider awarding a posthumous Distinguished Service Medal to a person (details supplied); and if the promotion for which they had been recommended will be put on their Army record. [5986/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The siege of Jadotville was a prominent event that occurred during Ireland's peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. "A" Company, 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on 3rd September 1961. On the 9th September, a large force of Katangese Gendarmerie surrounded them and early on the morning of the 13th September "A" Company came under attack. From the 13th to the 17th September they endured almost continuous attack. They were taken into captivity on the 17th September and remained in captivity until finally released on the 25th October 1961.

In accordance with Defence Forces regulations, the award of medals for bravery is time bound. These may not be awarded in any case unless a recommendation is made through the usual channels to the Chief of Staff, not later than two years in the case of the Military Medal for Gallantry, and not later than four years in the case of the Distinguished Service Medal, after the performance of the act in respect of which the recommendation is made. Such awards are made on the recommendation of a Military Board appointed by the Chief of Staff for the purpose of examining and reporting on every recommendation for an award.

The issue of the award of medals to the men of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion was comprehensively addressed in 1965. A properly constituted Medals Board considered the recommendation for the award of a medal to the person whose details are supplied and the other various cases presented and made a decision that no medals would be awarded. Defence Forces records indicate that recommendation for the award of a medal to the person referred to in the details supplied was considered by this board, but not upheld. The Chief of Staff of the day considered the decision of the Board and was satisfied with the findings. Subsequently, at that time, the question was raised again in a letter to a newly appointed Chief of Staff. He forwarded the letter to the original Medals Board and asked that they reconvene and review their decision. The Board indicated that the issues raised had received due consideration and that they were not prepared to alter their findings. There is currently no regulatory provision either to revisit the findings of a Medals Board or to effect a meritorious promotion posthumously.

Over the past number of years various representations have been received in my Department outlining the courage and bravery of "A" Company. All representations have been considered and responded to acknowledging their valiant actions while under siege in Jadotville.

A review was conducted in 2004 by military officers for the purpose of a broader examination of the Jadotville case. This Board recommended that the events of Jadotville and the contribution of the 35th Battalion be given recognition. In this context, a number of measures have taken place to honour and to commemorate the events at Jadotville and the very significant contribution of “A” Company and of the 35th Battalion, as a whole, to the UN Peace Support Mission in the Congo.

Recognition of their contribution over the years include:

A. A presentation of scrolls to "A" Company in 2006.

B. Portraits of Lt Col McNamee (35th Battalion Commander) and Comdt Quinlan (Company Commander “A” Company) were commissioned in 2006.

C. In July of 2010 the 50th anniversary of the first deployment to the Congo was commemorated in a highly publicised and well attended event in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

D. A nominal roll of “A” Company, printed in copper, was affixed to the monument in Costume Barracks and was unveiled as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Jadotville affair in September 2011.

E. On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville, I decided to issue a Unit Citation to honour the collective actions and bravery of the men of “A” Company. This was the first time a Unit Citation was awarded within the Defence Forces and I was delighted to be able to formally recognise the brave actions of these men.

Furthermore, on 13th June 2017, the Government decided, as an exceptional step, to award a medal known as “An Bonn Jadotville” or “The Jadotville Medal” to each member of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and to the family representatives of deceased members to give full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions at the Siege of Jadotville. I was delighted to present these Jadotville Medals at a ceremony that took place on 2nd December 2017 in Custume Barracks, Athlone. At this presentation, a medal was presented to a family representative of the person whose details are supplied. Custume Barracks was the location for this event as it is considered the spiritual home of “A” Company and it is from here that “A” company assembled in advance of their fateful deployment to the Congo.

I am satisfied that the events and happenings to date properly honour the collective bravery of the men of “A” Company and full and due recognition has been afforded to them in their honour.

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (45)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

45. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the breakdown of the €106 million capital allocation in Vote 36 of the budget 2019 expenditure report within his Department for 2019 by specific project; the projects that will be commenced in 2019; the projects that will be completed in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6048/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

A total of €106 million has been allocated for 2019 for capital expenditure in Vote 36 Defence. This is in accordance with the National Development Plan, which provides for an overall capital allocation of €541m for Defence for the period 2018 to 2022. This capital funding will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructure development as identified in the White Paper.

The main categories of expenditure in the 2019 capital allocation are as follows:

- Capability Development = €70m;

- Built Infrastructure = €19m;

- Military Transport = €6m;

- Defence Forces Communication and Information Technology Equipment = €5m;

- Other Equipment = €6m.

The following major projects are being progressed during 2019:

- Mid-life upgrade of the Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) fleet;

- Procurement of Fixed Wing Utility aircraft (Pilatus) as replacement for Cessna aircraft;

- Procurement of replacements for the two CASA 235 Maritime Patrol aircraft;

- Mid-life refit of the Naval Service vessels LÉ Niamh and LÉ Roisín and ongoing planning for the acquisition of a multi-role vessel;

- Virtual Desktop Architecture (VDA) project for Defence Forces IT infrastructure;

- Equipment renewal and replacement programmes along with investment in further force protection, transport, communications and information technology, weapons and ammunition systems;

- Investment in the Defence Forces built infrastructure, including the following specific projects -

- Secure storage facilities in the Defence Forces Training Centre, Curragh Camp;

- Target range facilities in the Defence Forces Training Centre;

- Training facilities in Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick and Stephens Barracks, Kilkenny;

- Accommodation facilities in the Defence Forces Training Centre and Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin;

- Accommodation upgrade in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel;

- Catering facilities in Custume Barracks, Athlone;

- Fuel storage safety system upgrade in the Naval Base, Haulbowline.

Major Defence capital projects are multi annual in nature and expenditure on these can span a number of years. I am satisfied that the capital allocation for Defence for 2019 and for the period to 2022 will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development as identified and prioritised in the White Paper.

Defence Forces Data

Ceisteanna (46)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

46. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of personnel serving in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service on 31 December 2017 and 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6078/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I am advised by the Military Authorities that the strength (Whole Time Equivalent) of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF), as on 31st December 2017 and 31st December 2018, were as set out below: -

Army

Air Corps

Naval Service

Total

31/12/2017

7,386

734

1,053

9,173

31/12/2018

7,243

725

989

8,957

The Government is committed to retaining a Permanent Defence Force with a strength of 9,500 personnel. Recruitment plans for 2019 will seek to replace personnel who depart the PDF and increase the strength of the PDF by year end.

Question Heading

Ceisteanna (47, 48, 49, 50)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

47. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the €5.5 million capital allocation under A our people, in Vote 28 of the Budget 2019 Expenditure Report within his Department for 2019 by specific project; the projects that will be commenced in 2019; the projects that will be completed in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6024/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

48. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the €4 million capital allocation under D our prosperity, in Vote 28 of the Budget 2019 Expenditure Report within his Department for 2019 by specific project; the projects that will be commenced in 2019; the projects that will be completed in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6025/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

49. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the €9 million capital allocation under E our influence, in Vote 28 of the Budget 2019 Expenditure Report within his Department for 2019 by specific project; the projects that will be commenced in 2019; the projects that will be completed in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6026/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

50. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the €2.5 million capital allocation under international co-operation, that is, Vote 27 of the Budget 2019 Expenditure Report within his Department for 2019 by specific project; the projects that will commence in 2019; the projects that will be completed in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6027/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 to 50, inclusive, together.

The total capital allocation for my Department in 2019 across its two Votes – Vote 27: International Co-operation and Vote 28: Foreign Affairs and Trade - will be €21 million. The 2019 allocation represents an increase of €8m on the 2018 capital allocation.

The main focus of capital investment in 2019 will be the cost of constructing and maintaining State properties overseas under Global Ireland 2025, the on-going Passport Reform Programme, the continuing investment in ICT to support the Department’s global ICT network and Ireland’s participation at EXPO 2020.

The projected breakdown of the 2019 capital allocation of €21 million, across the various areas referred to above, is as follows:

-

2019

State properties overseas

€8.5 million

Passport Reform Programme

€5.5 million

EXPO 2020

€4.0 million

ICT

€3.0 million

Total

€21 million

Insofar as the budget for State Properties overseas is concerned, it is planned to complete building works in 2019 at the Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, continue the preliminary works to facilitate the construction of the new Embassy/Ireland House in Tokyo, commence works on a new Embassy building in Abuja and to possibly purchase a property for a new Embassy opening in 2019. The details of the proposed purchase remain commercially sensitive at this time.

Under the on-going Passport Reform Programme the main projects due for completion in 2019 will be the automated mailing project, the business process automation project, the bedding in of the improvements to the on-line renewals service, on-going improvement to customer systems, and the commencement of the Passport Integrated Processing System.

An allocation of €4 million in 2019 is provided for building and exhibition costs associated with Ireland’s participation in Expo 2020 in Dubai. Ireland’s national Pavilion is being designed by the Office of Public Works. Expo 2020 is expected to attract some 25 million visitors. In a competitive global environment, participation will promote increased awareness of Ireland in the UAE and other key markets as a place to do business and as a destination for FDI post-Brexit. Ireland’s presence will also aim to support trade and tourism opportunities for Ireland in the UAE and wider Gulf region.

For 2019 there are planned projects in respect of ICT Services comprising infrastructure upgrades, roll-out of new business systems and improved communications technology. Provision is also being made for ICT services to new Missions under Global Ireland 2025.

Economic Sanctions

Ceisteanna (51, 56)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

51. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the application of the Helms-Burton Act in the USA has been discussed at EU level recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6088/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

56. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has been contacted by the ambassador of Cuba on the proposed imminent implementation of title 3 of the Helms-Burton Act; the response of the EU to this development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6168/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 56 together.

The 1996 Helms Burton Act is a US federal law which strengthens and continues the US's long standing economic embargo against Cuba.

Since 1996, European persons or entities have remained potentially affected by the extraterritorial elements in Titles III and IV of the Act, but a 1998 Memorandum of Understanding between the EU and US has waived Title III every six months and, as a result, European persons and entities have been protected from the relevant provisions of the Act.

On 16 January 2019, the US State Department announced that the next waiver, effective from 1 February 2019, would have a duration of 45 days only, the first time since the Act’s promulgation that the US has not waived Title III for six months.

This development has been noted by Ireland and our EU partners and I can confirm that the Helms-Burton Act was recently discussed at the EU Council Working Party on Transatlantic Relations (COTRA ), at which Ireland was represented at official level. A presentation was given by the European External Action Service on this development and on the potential risks impacting the EU and its economic operators.

It is not clear at this stage what this move to a 45-day waiver period means for Irish and other EU entities that have operations in/with Cuba. My officials are in close contact with the EU Commission on this matter and are monitoring the situation closely.

This issue was also raised in a recent meeting between officials from my Department and the Ambassador of Cuba to Ireland. Officials reiterated Ireland’s longstanding position on the US embargo against Cuba, which I have voiced myself on a number of occasions. We believe that the embargo serves no constructive purpose and that the lifting of the embargo would facilitate an opening of the island’s economy to the benefit of its people. In addition, we and our EU partners are not persuaded that the continued embargo is contributing in a positive way to the democratic transition in Cuba.

Together with our EU partners, we have firmly and continuously opposed extraterritorial measures that seek to extend the US embargo against Cuba to third countries as contrary to commonly accepted rules of international trade. Our position in this regard was set out most recently at the UN General Assembly on 1 November last year in the context of the resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the US against Cuba.

Departmental Meetings

Ceisteanna (52)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

52. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has been contacted by representatives of the Chinese Administration with regard to the use of technology by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6112/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

In meetings and other contacts with representatives of the Chinese Government, we have engaged in discussions on a range of bilateral issues, including our political engagement, our trade and investment relationship, cultural and educational exchanges and other matters of shared interest, including issues of regional and international interest.

I have not however been contacted by representatives of the Chinese Government with regard to the use of technology by the company referenced by the Deputy.

Passport Applications Administration

Ceisteanna (53)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

53. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 53 of 31 January 2019, the reason Part 10 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 does not address those that conceive through assisted human reproduction; the amendments that would need to be made in order to recognise mothers here legally regarding their legally registered child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6113/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Passports Act 2008 (the “2008 Act”) does not deal with the attribution of legal parentage for the purposes of Irish law. The 2008 Act deals with the issue of passports by my Department to Irish citizens and sets out a number of conditions in this regard. The 2008 Act contains a number of provisions in relation to the issue of passports to children. In particular section 14 of the 2008 Act deals with the requirements governing the consent of guardians to the issue of a passport to a child. Section 14 requires the consent of a child's guardian(s) before a passport can issue to the child, subject to very limited exceptions. In line with Section 2 of the 2008 Act, guardianship is a term with a defined legal meaning.

For the purposes of Section 2, a 'guardian; of a child means a person who:

a) is a guardian of the child pursuant to the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964, or

b) is appointed to be the guardian of the child by: (i) deed or will, or (ii) order of a court in the State, and has not been removed from office.

The purpose of Part 10 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 was to introduce a number of amendments to section 14 of the 2008 Act in relation to the requirements concerning the consent of guardians to the issuing of a passport to a child. Part 10 introduced amendments relating to the number of guardians required to give consent to the issuing of a passport to a child. It also introduced provisions to enable my Department to issue a passport to a child who is ordinarily resident outside the State on application by a guardian of that child, without the consent to such issue by the other guardians(s) of that child, where that child is ordinarily resident in a state which is a party to the 1996 Hague Convention on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition, enforcement and co-operation in respect of parental responsibility and measures for the protection of children , where a court or competent judicial or administrative authority of the state in which the child is resident has taken a measure directing that a passport can be issued without the consent of the other guardian(s), or where by operation of the law of that state, the requirements relating to consent of the other guardian(s) have been fulfilled.

Middle East Issues

Ceisteanna (54)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

54. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the most recent report by EU diplomats in Ramallah (details supplied); his views on the report; if he has discussed the report with his counterparts in other EU member states; if his attention has been further drawn to the comments by a person (details supplied); and his views on whether such systemic legal discrimination amounts to apartheid. [6114/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Irish Mission in Ramallah played an active part in the production of the report to which the Deputy refers. It was completed in August 2018. It therefore reflects and incorporates our own views and analysis of the situation and issues in the West Bank. The report underlines the views I have expressed many times here in the Dáil, highlighting the many difficulties and injustices faced by Palestinians under the continuing occupation by Israel of their land. The easing of these injustices, and the end of the occupation, have been the object of all my work in relation to the Middle East conflict. Later this month, for instance, I will host a number of Foreign Minister colleagues from EU and Arab countries at a meeting in Dublin to discuss these issues.

I am aware that a number of respected observers have drawn parallels with South Africa in times past. I do not intend to get tied up in comparing one situation to another. I have however consistently drawn attention to areas where different legal and justice regimes and standards are applied to Israelis and Palestinians - including in the planning system, the treatment of prisoners and of young people in detention, in access to resources and in the accountability of the state and its forces. I have repeatedly stated the clear principle that all people subject to Israeli jurisdiction and control should enjoy the same protection and safeguards as Israel considers appropriate for its own citizens.

Brexit Preparations

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 51.

Ceisteanna (55)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

55. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the preparations made to protect the interests and entitlements of frontier workers here when the UK leaves the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6150/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Withdrawal Agreement covers all elements of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This includes the protection of the ongoing rights of EU frontier workers, who have exercised these rights prior to the end of the Transition period provided for under the Agreement. The focus of my Department, and of this Government, continues to be on securing ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. This is the best way to ensure that such rights are protected post-Brexit.

In the absence of the Withdrawal Agreement these rights will not apply. The rights of EU citizens working in Ireland remain fully protected. However, it will be a matter for the UK Government how it will address EU frontier workers in the UK.

The Government is acutely conscious of the concerns of border communities and of cross-border workers as a result of Brexit. The continuation of the Common Travel Area (CTA) is also important in that context.

The Common Travel Area is a long-standing arrangement between Ireland and the UK which means Irish citizens can move freely to live, work, and study in the UK on the same basis as UK citizens and vice versa. It is an arrangement that is valued on both islands and the continuation of this arrangement is a stated commitment of both the Irish and UK Governments. It is important to note that the Common Travel Area applies to Irish and UK citizens only.

In the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, it is important that any arrangements necessary to maintain the Common Travel Area are made.

The Common Travel Area provides for associated rights and entitlements which enable Irish and UK citizens to move freely between and reside in both jurisdictions. These rights and entitlements include access to employment, healthcare, education, and social benefits, as well as the right to vote in certain elections. The CTA pre-dates Irish and UK membership of the EU and is not dependent on it. It is recognised in Protocol 20 to the EU Treaties and is also acknowledged in the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland to the Agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU which was endorsed by the European Council and the UK Government on 25 November 2018.

The maintenance of the CTA is a bilateral matter. Work is at an advanced stage both with the UK and domestically to ensure that the necessary provisions are made in both jurisdictions so that the CTA continues to function effectively after the UK leaves the EU.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 51.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (57)

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

57. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the discussions he has held with the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the activation of the legacy issues aspects of the Stormont House Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6190/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Comprehensive progress on legacy issues from the Troubles is crucial in order to meet the legitimate needs and expectations of victims and survivors, and to contribute to broader societal reconciliation as an integral part of the Peace Process. The Government will continue to engage in support of that, consistent with our role and responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to building on the progress made to establish the comprehensive institutional framework for dealing with the past that is provided for under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, maintaining the needs of the victims and survivors at the core of our approach. Victims and survivors have had to wait for far too long for a suitable and effective system in Northern Ireland to deal with the legacy of the Troubles. Successive efforts over the last ten years, from the commencement of the Eames-Bradley process in June 2007, have sought to address legacy issues, in particular to meet the legitimate needs and expectations of victims and survivors. However, this is still sought and is urgently needed.

I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with all of the political parties to support a way forward on the implementation of the comprehensive legacy framework that was agreed under the Stormont House Agreement of 2014. I have also consistently emphasised in these discussions the need to ensure proper resourcing of legacy inquests in Northern Ireland, and I continue to raise this matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, seeking urgent progress.

Secretary of State Bradley and I are agreed on the imperative of moving ahead with the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework.

On 11 May, I welcomed the launch of a public consultation by the British Government on their draft legislation to establish the legacy bodies provided for in the Stormont House Agreement as an important step forward. The consultation closed for submissions on 5 October and the responses are now being considered by Secretary of State Bradley ahead of a British Government response to the consultation.

While that consultation is about UK legislation to establish the institutions, legislation will also be required in this jurisdiction to provide for cooperation with the Stormont House Agreement legacy bodies. The drafting of legislative proposals for consideration by the Government and Oireachtas is advancing, led by my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Irish Aid

Ceisteanna (58)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

58. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the arrangements Irish Aid has made in recent years to encourage disabled volunteers as part of the volunteer rosters maintained by his Department; the way in which Irish Aid staff would respond to an issue requiring consideration of an accommodation which was raised by a disabled volunteer; the training provided to desk staff on disability and public sector equality duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6197/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Development Cooperation and Africa Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade facilitates participation in a range of volunteering opportunities overseas. Typically these opportunities involve placement with, or by, third party organisations, and are facilitated by the Department through a range of rosters, registers, initiatives and programmes. Depending on the role and local context, volunteers may need to be able to operate in challenging circumstances.

Where prospective volunteers with a disability request that a reasonable accommodation arrangement be made, including to facilitate their mustering as a volunteer, my Department will liaise with the individual and the third party organisation concerned with a view to determining whether a reasonable accommodation can be made having regard to the specific circumstance of the individual and the nature of the volunteering role envisaged.

More broadly, Ireland's policy on overseas volunteering is set out in the Volunteering Initiative, which promotes skills-based, sustainable volunteering overseas, working in partnership with third parties. The forthcoming launch of a new White Paper on International Development provides an opportunity to review our approach to overseas volunteering to ensure that it keeps pace with the evolving discourse on volunteering for development, and also with the development of best practice on promoting equality and diversity at home and abroad. The Department will consult with relevant stakeholders to take this work forward.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides regular training for staff members on diversity and equality matters, including at induction training and specific training on unconscious bias.

Insurance Coverage

Ceisteanna (59, 60, 61, 67)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

59. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to issues regarding farm insurance that farmers are unable to attain cover for livestock other than sheep that are worried or attacked by dogs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6091/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

60. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to issues regarding farm insurance by which farmers cannot obtain insurance cover for the theft of livestock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6095/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

61. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to issues regarding farm insurance by which insurance companies are refusing to provide cover for working dogs over five years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6097/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

67. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that insurance companies are refusing to provide insurance cover to farmers for worrying of livestock other that sheep, theft of livestock and for working dogs over five years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6096/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 to 61, inclusive, and 67 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG), chaired by the Minister of State for Financial Services and Insurance, Mr. Michael D’Arcy T.D., has undertaken an examination of the factors contributing to the increasing cost of insurance in order to identify what short, medium and long-term measures could be introduced to help reduce the cost of insurance for consumers and businesses. I refer the Deputy to recent responses to Parliamentary Questions for more detail on the CIWG’s two primary reports, the Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance (4215/19) and the Report on the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance (4742/19), respectively.

As part of the formal consultation processes for the two reports, there was engagement between the CIWG and representatives from the Irish Farmers’ Association and Meat Industry Ireland, as well as some of the main providers of insurance for the agriculture sector in Ireland. I am also aware that Minister of State D’Arcy met with a delegation from the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society in March 2018. I have been informed that issues related to the specific types of insurance referred to by the Deputy were not raised during any of these consultations, nor have recent representations been received in that regard.

Nevertheless, and notwithstanding that I have no role regarding how insurance companies price specific risks or the type of cover they provide, my officials contacted Insurance Ireland in relation to the matters raised in your question. I understand from their response that at least one prominent provider of insurance to the agriculture sector in this country offers products which include cover for accidental injury to livestock, for livestock theft, and for working dogs up to and including the age of 8 years.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission website recommends that consumers “shop around” and “always get quotes from several insurance providers when you need to get or renew insurance”. While this advice specifically refers to car insurance, it can also be applied to other forms of insurance.

Finally, the free Insurance Information Service run by Insurance Ireland may be in a position to impart useful relevant information to the Deputy and/or his constituent(s), as applicable – the contact details are: feedback@insuranceireland.eu or 01-6761914.

VAT Rate Increases

Ceisteanna (62)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

62. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if the 23% increase on certain health supplements will be reviewed in view of the possible negative impact the hike will have on persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6161/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Under the VAT Consolidation Act, the standard rate of VAT applies to all food supplements, which are not foods in the ordinary and everyday meaning of the word. However, a longstanding concession provided through Revenue guidance permitted the zero rating of certain types of food supplements (vitamins, minerals and fish oils).

Revenue published new guidance on 27 December 2018 concerning the rate of VAT that applies to food supplements. The new guidance withdraws the concessionary application of the zero rate to certain food supplements provided for in previous guidance and these products will be liable at the standard rate from 1 March 2019. Food supplement products that did not fall within the withdrawn concession were already liable at the standard rate and this remains unchanged. Human oral medicines and other health products, including folic acid and vitamin products, that are licensed by the Health Products Regulatory Agency (HPRA) are liable at the zero rate.

Independent of the Revenue Commissioners' decisions on interpretation, I agreed during the recent Finance Bill to put in place a process that will conclude in the 2019 Tax Strategy Group Paper to examine some of the policy choices around the VAT treatment of food supplements.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (63)

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

63. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Finance the contingency plans in place to deal with possible customs checks at the Border; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6086/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The EU and Ireland have said that we are determined to do all we can, deal or no deal, to avoid the need for a border and to protect the peace process. In a no deal, Ireland, the EU and the UK would need to work together to achieve this. But it is preferable for us all to resolve this now, as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement.

I am informed by Revenue that their preparations do not include any plans for infrastructure at the border and this is in line with the Government’s position that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland. Revenue Chairman, Niall Cody, set out this position clearly when he and Revenue officials appeared before the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach on 24 January 2019.

The Government has made it clear that it is committed to avoiding the return of a hard border on the Island of Ireland. In the event of no deal, then there will be intensive discussions between the Government, the EU Commission and EU partners regarding the movement of goods North-South. I am assured by Revenue that they will provide whatever technical expertise and assistance is required by the Government.

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (64, 65)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

64. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of the €945,000 capital allocation under A economic and policy division in Vote 7 of the budget 2019 expenditure report by specific project; the projects that will be commenced in 2019; the projects that will be completed in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5997/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

65. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of the €945,000 capital allocation under B banking and financial service policy in Vote 7 of the budget 2019 expenditure report for 2019 by specific project; the projects that will be commenced in 2019; the projects that will be completed in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5998/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 and 65 together.

My Department received a Capital Allocation of €1,890,000 in the 2019 Estimates.

Due to changes in the programme structure for 2019 it has been decided to allocate certain support costs such as IT and Office Premises Costs on a 50:50 basis to my Department’s two remaining programmes. As such the Capital Allocation which is a provision for Office Premises and IT and Office Equipment expenditure has been allocated on that basis.

The Capital budget for 2019 is to cover the projects outlined in the table below.

The amount relating to Various Office Premises Projects is a provision to allow us to engage OPW to carry out various necessary works on our buildings on a case by case basis as their resources become available.

As of today’s date it is planned that projects will be commenced and completed in 2019 that will use the entire allocation.

Capital Expenditure Estimate 2019

Description

Various Office Premise Projects (Including new meeting rooms)

1,630,000

IT Capital

150,000

Registry Scanning project

80,000

Data Connection to Finglas

30,000

Total

1,890,000