Consultancy Contracts Expenditure

Ceisteanna (111)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

111. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Taoiseach the expenditure details for all consultancy or audit services provided to his Department by a company (details supplied) in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [7756/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

My Department has not incurred any expenditure for consultancy or audit services with the company in question during the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (112)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

112. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on meetings with the political parties when he visited Belfast on 8 February 2019; the persons who attended; the issues that were discussed; the responses made; and if arrangements have been made to meet again. [7759/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I travelled to Belfast on Friday 8th February for a series of meetings with each of the five main political parties in Northern Ireland including: DUP Leader Ms Arlene Foster; Sinn Féin Vice President Ms Michelle O'Neill; UUP leader Robin Swann; Alliance Party Leader Naomi Long and Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP.

The meetings provided an opportunity to engage with the Northern Ireland political parties and to hear their views on latest Brexit developments and on the current political situation in Northern Ireland.

We discussed what could be done to get the institutions in Northern Ireland up and running again. Once again, I emphasised the Government’s full commitment to all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, and our continuing determination to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.

The Government wants to see an agreement in place to secure the operation of the devolved institutions and we will continue to engage with the British Government and the political parties in Northern Ireland to seek urgent progress with that in the period immediately ahead.

On Brexit, I outlined to each of the NI parties the Government's position, shared by the EU, that the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation and represents the best way to secure an orderly Brexit while avoiding a return to a hard border.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (113)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

113. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to cost overruns on contracts within his Department with a value in excess of €10 million that came in more than 10% over budget in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; if so, the details of same. [8429/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

My Department has no capital budget and therefore has not incurred any capital expenditure or overruns in the years in question.

Defence Forces Medical Services

Ceisteanna (114, 115, 116, 117, 118)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

114. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of serving medical officers in the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7684/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

115. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of serving medical officers in the Defence Forces who hold specialist registration with an organisation (details supplied); the number of doctors who are fully qualified to practice unsupervised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7685/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

116. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding serving medical officers of lieutenant colonel rank and above that are allegedly not seeing patients but are completing administrative roles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7686/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

117. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of medical officers in the Defence Forces in receipt of the specialist allowance designed to recruit and retain fully qualified doctors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7687/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

118. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the specialist allowance designed to recruit and retain fully qualified doctors has ceased; if he has given consideration to reinstating the allowance in order to aid recruitment and retention of suitably qualified doctors to the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7688/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 to 118, inclusive, together.

The number of Medical Officers serving in the Defence Forces is currently 24 of which there are 4 in the Military Medicine training scheme. All Defence Forces Medical Officers are registered with the Medical Council. All Medical Officers are under the supervision of a Senior Medical Officer in the relevant Formation. Medical Officers of all ranks treat Defence Forces patients. Medical Officers receive Rate 3 pay and additional allowances are payable for certain prescribed positions. In addition, Military Service Allowance and other relevant allowances are payable where applicable. There are no plans to introduce further allowances.

Commemorative Medals

Ceisteanna (119)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

119. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if members of the fire service will be awarded medals in commemoration of 1916; if he will consider granting the medals to veteran members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7706/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Recognition of the contribution to the State by members of the Fire Service, and other emergency services, is a matter that is not within my remit as the Minister of State with responsibility for Defence.

The Programme for Government provided for the award of the 1916 Commemorative medal to all Defence Forces personnel, Permanent and Reserve, who were recorded as being in service in the course of 2016. This was a special acknowledgement from the Government to the members of Óglaigh na hÉireann who served during the centenary year.

In recognition of the contribution of veterans to the centenary commemorative events in 2016 it was agreed to present a framed medal to each of the Veterans Associations along with a plaque for each of the 41 Branches of the Organisation of Ex-Service Personnel (O.N.E.) and each of the 21 Posts of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA). It is not proposed to revisit this arrangement.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (120)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

120. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if colour blindness is an automatic disqualifier for application to the Defence Forces; if there have been changes to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7707/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The conditions for entry to and service in the Permanent Defence Force, including the methodologies used for assessments, are subject to continuous review and modification having regard to the needs of the organisation and the development of best practices.

All applicants must have normal colour vision to join the Defence Forces.

The military authorities have informed me that a Defence Forces Colour Vision Working Group was established to review the colour vision requirements for joining the Defence Forces. This review is now in the final stages and recommendations will be presented in due course.

Defence Forces Data

Ceisteanna (121)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

121. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of members of the Defence Forces injured during the course of their duties in the past 20 years who have had to retire subsequently on ill health grounds but who have had their pensions reduced to recover an award; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7764/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I take it the Deputy is referring to an award of compensation made in court on foot of legal proceedings and to Section 13(2) of the Army Pensions Act, 1923, as amended, which provides that any alternative compensation received may be taken into consideration in fixing the level of disability pension or gratuity that might otherwise be awarded for the same injury or medical condition. Section 13(2) does not provide for the recovery of an award, rather the underlying objective of Section 13(2) is to take into consideration compensation paid ‘on the double’ for the same disablement.

Records are not maintained in a format that would enable the specific information sought by the Deputy to be readily extracted, and it would involve a disproportionate amount of time and effort to extract such information.

I should explain that a member of the Defence Forces who is injured during the course of their duties will not necessarily have to subsequently retire on ill health grounds. Also, a retirement on ill health grounds does not necessarily arise from an injury incurred in the course of duty. Finally, compulsory retirement or discharge from the Defence Forces on medical grounds does not give an automatic entitlement to a disability pension, or to an award in a civil action.

Defence Forces Properties

Ceisteanna (122)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

122. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if construction works will commence in 2019 on the new gymnasia at Sarsfield Barracks, County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7942/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

A Design Team was appointed in 2018 to design a Sports Hall and Gymnasium for Sarsfield Barracks, assist in its procurement and oversee construction work and they commenced work in September 2018. Their first task was to conduct a feasibility study on how best to address the functional requirements for the proposed facility within the constraints of the site identified in the Barracks. Their proposals were presented to my Department in January 2019 and identified the outline of the building, how the functional requirements are addressed within it and its proposed location. The detail of those proposals are under consideration by my Department.

Before a construction contract for the project is entered into, the processes to be completed are final evaluation of the proposals by my Department, any required Planning process, detailed design of the facility, completion of the tender documentation and a tender competition for the construction work, followed by evaluation of the tender results and a decision on an award.

Funding has been earmarked to allow the construction of the project to commence in 2019 subject to conclusion of the processes preceding construction, as summarised above.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (123)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

123. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a new recruitment campaign for the Permanent Defence Force will commence before the end of Easter 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8027/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The 2019 recruitment campaigns for the Permanent Defence Force are already underway.

The recent Naval Service General Service Recruit competition, which closed on 21 January 2019, attracted 969 applications and these are currently being processed.

It is planned to induct approximately 800 personnel to the Defence Forces in 2019, comprising of General Service Recruits, Apprentices, Cadets and Direct Entry Officers.

The Government remains committed to ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces to return to, and maintain, the establishment level of 9,500 personnel as set out in the White Paper on Defence 2015.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (124, 125)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

124. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 51 and 52 of 31 January 2019, the specific elements of Defence Forces height standards being reviewed; the specific timeline for the review; when it will begin; when conclusions will be reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8189/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

125. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces are considering reducing the height requirements for all recruits and cadets at entry; if so, when a decision on same can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8190/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 125 together.

The minimum height requirement for general service is set out in Defence Forces Regulation. This prescribes a minimum height requirement for enlistment for general service in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) of 157.48cm. This requirement was made following recommendations by a Defence Force Working Group which reported in January 2006 and reduced the previous height requirement for both males and females.

The determination of a minimum height requirement for enlistment in the Defence Forces is based on the ergonomic requirements for all members of the Defence Forces to train and carry out operations both at home and overseas with service Personal Load Carrying Equipment.

The height requirements in place were introduced following detailed consideration and were intended to ensure that personnel can conduct safely the various military task assigned to them, and they are of general application to all recruits. Accordingly, the height requirements remain in place.

The military authorities have informed me that a study group has been convened by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) in order to review the standards of height for entry into the Defence Forces. The terms of reference for the group provide for the group to assess and recommend changes to the current height standards.

The group contains representatives from all three services of the Defence Forces and includes medical personnel, personnel from training establishments and military HR. The group convened in late September 2018 and I am informed that the group is in the final stages of deliberations and should report in the coming weeks.

Defence Forces Personnel Data

Ceisteanna (126)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

126. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 135 of 20 November 2018, when the information will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8341/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The information requested by the Deputy in Question Number 135 of 20 November 2018 was not available within the given timeframe when asked. The Military Authorities have now provided the required data and I am in a position to issue a response.

In line with other sectors, sick leave statistics for the Permanent Defence Force are compiled annually and provided to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (D/PER). These statistics are used in order to track the level of absenteeism across the Public Service. The absentee rates for the Public Service are then published by D/PER.

As per Defence Force Regulation A12, sick leave may be granted to a member of the Permanent Defence Force, on the recommendation of a Medical Officer, or if not practicable, on the recommendation of a civilian medical practitioner.

The total number of sick leave days taken by members of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, in each year since 2009, by officer and enlisted personnel, are set out in tabular form.

Year

Army Officer

Army - Other Ranks

Air Corps Officer

Air Corps - Other Ranks

Naval Service Officer

Naval Service - Other Ranks

2018

1314

69290

314

7691

622

7502

2017

1309

63382

533

5912

475

6706

2016

1210

61966

517

4359

229

6643

2015

1354

54909

515

4328

358

6669

2014

1487

46837

510

4132

420

5488

2013

1502

48498

404

4223

387

5008

2012

1600

45448

200

3190

284

4830

2011

1799

50200

195

2592

359

5359

2010

1529

57507

404

3326

411

5648

2009

1805

52900

350

3392

281

5823

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (127)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

127. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to cost overruns on contracts within his Department with a value in excess of €10 million that came in more than 10% over budget in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8420/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

There have been no contracts with a value in excess of €10 million completed by my Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 that have come in at more than 10% over budget.

Passport Applications

Ceisteanna (128)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

128. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a person (details supplied) is eligible to apply for an Irish passport; if not, if they must first make a formal application for citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7671/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

All passports applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act 2008, as amended. The 2008 Act provides, among other things, in section 7(1) that I must be satisfied that a person is an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him or her.

Irish citizenship is governed by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, which is under the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality. Citizenship may be obtained in a number of ways, including by birth, descent, naturalisation and, also, adoption. Section 11 of the 1956 Act provides for citizenship of adopted children. Section 11(1) provides as follows:

“Upon an adoption order being made, under an adoption order within the meaning of section 3 (1) of the Adoption Act 2010 or an intercountry adoption effected outside the State being recognised within the meaning of that Act in a case in which the adopter or, where the adoption is by a married couple, either spouse is an Irish citizen, the adopted child, if not already an Irish citizen, shall be an Irish citizen.”

Therefore, if a person who is not already an Irish citizen has been adopted by an Irish citizen, and that adoption was effected abroad, that person may be entitled to Irish citizenship subject to the adoption complying with the requirements for recognition under Irish law.

The Passport Service will consider any application for a passport by a person adopted by an Irish citizen in accordance with the above provisions.

Rapid Response Initiative

Ceisteanna (129)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

129. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the arrangements made for equality monitoring in the running of the rapid response roster and the election observation roster; and if arrangements for appeal from disabled applicants to the rosters will be considered under public statutory equality duty. [7874/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

In relation to the volunteer rosters maintained by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the public sector equality and human rights duty, I refer the Deputy to the response to Parliamentary Question Number 124 of 12 February 2019.

Parliamentary Question Numbers 124 of 12 February 2019 and 58 of 7 February 2019 observe that the forthcoming launch of a new White Paper on international development presents an opportunity to review Ireland's Volunteering Initiative 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.

Passport Services

Ceisteanna (130)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

130. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the estimated amount it would cost in a full year if two additional passport printing machines were purchased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7939/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Passport printing and the personalisation of each passport requires highly specialised machinery, auxiliary equipment and a temperature-controlled environment.

The Passport Service operates three passport printing machines, two of which are located in our main production facility in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin and one located in the Passport Office in Mount Street, Dublin. All applications are processed through the centralised Automated Passport Service (APS). This means that all production facilities can print a passport irrespective of the channel through which the application was processed. This printing system allows for flexibility between printing machines if any one machine has reached capacity.

The current three printing machines are meeting the Passport Service printing demands and have additional capacity. Each Passport Printer has a printing capacity of 250 passports per hour and the printing requirements of the Passport Office in Cork are met by the machines in Balbriggan and Mount Street, without difficulty.

The purchase cost of a new passport printing machine alone is in excess of €1.7 million. This does not include the cost of security, maintenance, technical, fit-out, staffing and rental costs. Such auxiliary costs may vary considerably depending on the location where the machine would be housed and whether the machine would be added to an existing production site or a new production site.

Passport Applications Fees

Ceisteanna (131)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

131. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to introduce a reduced cost for renewing and obtaining a passport for senior citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7988/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Passport Service does not provide a reduced fee to any category of adult applicant for a passport, whether for the renewal of a passport or for a first time application. A reduced fee is applied on applications for passports for minors in recognition of the fact that a minor’s passport is valid for only five years. Most adult passports will be issued for a period of ten years.

I am satisfied that, at a cost of €75 for a renewal, which breaks down to €7.50 per year, the Irish passport fee compares favourably with the services offered elsewhere. For example, an adult would have to pay €8.25 per year for a British passport, €8.60 per year for a French passport, €9.75 per year for an American passport and €18.45 per year for an Australian passport.

Given that any shortfall in revenue would have to be met by the taxpayer, a decision to waive or reduce the application fee for any category of applicant would require careful consideration. It is important to ensure that the major upgrades to the passport service technology platforms and business processes as well as significant customer service improvements which have taken place in recent years can be maintained and further developed.

In the context of the services provided by the Passport Service, I would like to draw attention to the well-advanced Passport Reform Programme, one element of which is an online passport renewal service which was launched on 30 March 2017. This service was recently expanded to include renewal of children's passports and other categories of application. The online service brings significant benefits for citizens with faster turnaround times of 10 working days for all online applications, excluding postage.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (132)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

132. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on whether arrangements should be made for the UK to enjoy a one-stop security agreement with the European Union; and if he has made representations to this effect. [8129/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

From the beginning of the Brexit process, the Government has been clear about our wish to pursue the closest possible relationship with the UK following its departure from the EU, including on matters related to security. The Political Declaration on the framework for the future relationship agreed in November states:

“The future relationship will provide for comprehensive, close, balanced and reciprocal law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, with the view to delivering strong operational capabilities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences."

The political declaration identifies key areas for cooperation, including data exchange, operational and judicial cooperation, and anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing. It also contains firm commitments to respecting fundamental rights, including a commitment by the UK to continue to adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ireland supports this high level of ambition.

Ireland and the UK will also continue to co-operate with the UK on border and immigration matters within the framework of the Common Travel Area, while fully respecting rights of EU nationals.

The Minister for Justice and Equality and his officials have engaged regularly with EU, UK and Northern Ireland counterparts to share analysis of the impacts of Brexit. The Department of Justice and Equality is also engaging intensively with criminal justice agencies and sectoral experts to prepare for the issues arising when the United Kingdom leaves the EU.