Maritime Jurisdiction

Ceisteanna (154)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

154. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the maritime baseline on the east coast is a straight baseline or a low water baseline; and if he will provide a map of the baseline. [28139/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Except in three places, on the east coast the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea and the other maritime zones of the State is measured is the 'normal' baseline, being the low-water line along the coast of the mainland and of offshore islands, and the low-water line on any low-tide elevation located within 12 nautical miles of the mainland or of any off-shore island. The islands and low tide elevations concerned are Rockabill, Lambay Island, Ireland’s Eye, Blackwater Bank and Tuskar Rock.

The three exceptions to the use of the normal baseline on the east coast are bay closing lines drawn between the natural entrance points to Dundalk and Dublin Bays and Wexford Harbour, which serve as the baselines in the places concerned. These closing lines have operated at common law since the foundation of the State. For the avoidance of doubt the Government recently prescribed them by Order under s. 85 of the 2006 Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act (S.I. No. 155/2019 - Maritime Jurisdiction (Bay Closing Lines) Order 2019).

In international law, where a coastline is deeply indented and cut into, or if there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity, a State may draw straight baselines joining appropriate headlands or islands. This has been done for the west and south coasts, which meet the relevant criteria.

I will arrange for an illustrative map of the State’s baselines, together with the outer limits of the territorial sea from which they are measured, to be furnished to the Deputy.

EU Bodies

Ceisteanna (155)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

155. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the process leading to the future Commissioner for Ireland. [28208/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The nomination of the Irish Commissioner to serve as a member of the next College of Commissioners will be taken by the Taoiseach and Government in due course.

The European Council will propose a candidate for President of the Commission who will then be elected by the European Parliament. I would expect the new President of the Commission to begin working with Member States who will designate Commission nominees from their countries.

I expect this process of consultation will take place over the Summer months in order for the new President to build up a team and for all the Commissioners-designate to attend hearings in the European Parliament in September/October, prior to the Parliament's own vote of consent.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (156)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

156. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Ethiopia; the response of the European Union to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27590/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

On the evening of 22 June, targeted attacks were carried out in Ethiopia against senior Government officials in Bahir Dar, the capital of the northern Amhara region, and the capital, Addis Ababa. The Amhara Regional President Ambachew Mekonnen and two of his advisors were killed, and the perpetrator has been identified as the Amhara Region security chief, Asaminew Tsige. Some hours later, a bodyguard killed General Seare Mekonnen, Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Defence Forces, and a retired officer, at the general’s home in Addis Ababa.

Following the attacks, the Federal Government imposed an internet blackout across the country. State media announced that Asaminew was killed by the military in a firefight on 24 June. Asaminew, an Amhara nationalist, had been imprisoned under the premiership of former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for insubordination and plotting a coup attempt, and was released last year by current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as part of a large-scale release of political prisoners. The internet has now been restored.

The EU issued a statement condemning the killings, calling for restraint from all sides of the Ethiopian political spectrum, and reiterating the need for continued peaceful and democratic reforms in Ethiopia. It also reiterated the EU’s support for the efforts of Prime Minister Abiy and his Government in this context. During a visit to Ethiopia in January, the Taoiseach met with Prime Minister Abiy and expressed Ireland’s support for Ethiopia’s ongoing reforms, as well as raising concerns regarding the high levels of internal displacement.

Ireland’s travel advice for Ethiopia has been updated following the events of 22 June, and our Embassy in Addis Ababa is in contact with Irish citizens registered in Ethiopia. Ireland’s Ambassador to Ethiopia has been briefed on the events by the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. The Embassy continues to closely monitor the political and security situation, in cooperation with the EU Delegation in Addis Ababa.

Ireland continues to support the political and economic reform process underway in Ethiopia, including through the Irish Aid programme: Ethiopia is Ireland's most significant bilateral development partner with a budget this year of €32 million.

EU Programmes

Ceisteanna (157)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

157. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on reports that an operation (details supplied) was involved in spreading fake news regarding Northern Ireland amongst others; the actions he will take following this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27591/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am aware of the recent report by the Digital Forensics Research Lab (DFRLab), a reputable organisation, part of the Atlantic Council, an independent US based Think Tank. The report concerns possible evidence of a disinformation campaign partly aimed at exacerbating divisions in Northern Ireland and is an issue which the relevant security services here will be appraising.

Protecting democratic processes and institutions from disinformation is a major challenge for all societies. In order to tackle this challenge, the EU is building a robust framework for coordinated action which is fully in line with European values and fundamental rights, and with which Ireland is fully engaged.

Measures adopted to date by the European Council - the EU Joint Action Plan against Disinformation and the dedicated Elections Package – have already helped to deter attacks and expose disinformation. Within the framework of these actions, increased public awareness has made it harder for malicious actors to manipulate the public debate.

More broadly, the EU has strengthened its capabilities to identify and counter disinformation, via the Strategic Communication Task Forces and the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell in the European External Action Service. A Rapid Alert System has also been established to facilitate the prompt exchange of information between Member States and the EU institutions where suspect disinformation campaigns have been detected.

The EU also works closely with online platforms and industry through a voluntary Code of Practice to increase the transparency of political communications and to prevent the manipulative use of their services. This allows users to know why they see specific political content and ads, and see where they come from and who is behind them.

The fight against disinformation is a long-term challenge that concerns all parts of our societies and requires continuous commitment and efforts. The private sector, especially the online platforms, have a particular responsibility. Further proposals to strengthen our collective action in response to this ever-evolving threat are likely and Ireland will fully support any such actions once they align with our fundamental values, notably the right to freedom of expression.

Middle East Issues

Ceisteanna (158)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

158. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the attempts by the European Union to seek compensation from the Israeli authorities for the demolition of EU-funded structures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27592/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The issue of confiscation or demolition of donor-funded structures, included those funded by the EU, is of great concern to me. The demolition of Palestinian homes, and demolition or seizure of related structures such as water tanks, wells, solar panels, schools and animal housing, are cruel and unjust actions. The only possible conclusion we can draw from the systematic nature of these policies, especially in areas where illegal Israeli settlements have already been constructed, is that they are aimed at forcing Palestinians off their land.

Ireland joined the European Commission-led West Bank Protection Consortium in 2017 at my instigation, during my first visit to Israel and Palestine as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Consortium plays a leading role in supporting threatened communities and coordinating the provision of essential services to them, including material assistance and legal aid. Ireland’s membership of the Consortium underlines our commitment to reducing the vulnerability of Palestinian communities living in Area C of the West Bank.

My primary concern is the hardship and injustice that demolitions and confiscations cause for Palestinian families. But it is right that the question of recompense for humanitarian relief funded by our taxpayers should also be pursued. Ireland is part of a group of EU Member States which pursue this issue consistently through the West Bank Protection Consortium. It is the practice of the Consortium to raise this directly with the Israeli authorities and to date, the donors to the Consortium have sought compensation in the amount of over €121,000 in respect of confiscated or demolished assets.

In October 2018, seven donor-funded humanitarian structures were confiscated by the Israeli authorities from two vulnerable Palestinian communities located in Area C of the occupied West Bank. The structures were co-funded by the EU and the West Bank Protection Consortium, and were provided in order to address the basic needs of the population and to support children’s right to education in a safe environment as part of a humanitarian response mechanism.

There were worrying reports that the confiscated humanitarian assets were to be auctioned by the Israeli Civil Administration earlier this month, but I understand that the auction has since been postponed. Irish diplomats based in Ramallah and in Tel Aviv are following this matter closely and are working with other members of the Consortium to determine how best to pursue this issue.

The practice of demolition and confiscation of humanitarian assets, including education infrastructure, is contrary to Israel’s obligations under International Law, including provisions of international humanitarian law, and in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention. These practices also cause suffering to ordinary Palestinians, and impinge on the right of children to an education.

Ireland regularly conveys our views on these actions to the Israeli authorities, both directly and through the EU. I have done so myself on my visits to the region.

Emigrant Support Services

Ceisteanna (159)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

159. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the expenditure on the emigrant support programme; the estimated full-year cost of increasing the expenditure by 5%, 10%, 15% and 20%, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27593/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) provides funding to non-profit organisations and projects to support our most vulnerable emigrants overseas, to strengthen Irish communities abroad and to facilitate the development of closer and more strategic links between Ireland and the global Irish.

I refer the Deputy to PQ 15083/19 which was answered on 2 April 2019 and note the position remains as outlined below.

The budget for the Emigrant Support Programme in 2019 is €12.595 million. This represents an increase of €1 million in the allocation for the ESP in 2019, from €11.595 million last year, and is a demonstration of the Government's continuing commitment to our people abroad.

An increase of 5% on the 2019 budget would cost €629,750.

An increase of 10% on the 2019 budget would cost €1,259,500.

An increase of 15% on the 2019 budget would cost €1,889,250.

An increase of 20% on the 2019 budget would cost €2,519,000.

EU Funding

Ceisteanna (160)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

160. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the expenditure on the Trust Fund for Africa; the estimated full-year cost of increasing expenditure by 5%, 10%, 15% and 20%, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27594/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The European Union Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa is part of a comprehensive package of EU initiatives to support stability across North Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel/Lake Chad region. The Trust Fund contributes to tackling the root causes of instability, forced displacement and irregular migration. It was launched in 2015 at the Valletta EU-Africa Summit on migration, and will run to 2020.

The Trust Fund is financed by the EU institutions, and EU Member States together with Norway and Switzerland. Collectively, they have committed €4.2 billion to the Trust Fund to date, with approximately 88% (€3.7 billion) coming from EU institutions and €500 million from bilateral pledges.

Ireland’s total commitment to the Trust Fund for the period 2016-2020 is €15 million. €600,000 was paid to the Trust Fund in 2016, €1,000,000 in 2017 and €7.3 million in 2018. Ireland’s total bilateral contribution to the Trust Fund to date therefore stands at €8.9 million. The remaining €6.1 million is to be disbursed during 2019 and 2020.

Incremental increases of the type set out in the Deputy’s question are not planned. However, the effect such increases would have are set out in the table:

Current Commitment

€15,000,000

Total additional cost to 2020 if commitment increased by...

5%

€750,000

10%

€1,500,000

15%

€2,250,000

20%

€3,000,000

Peace and Reconciliation Programme

Ceisteanna (161)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

161. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the expenditure on the peace and reconciliation fund; the estimated full-year cost of increasing expenditure by 5%, 10%, 15% and 20%, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27595/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Reconciliation Fund has been in operation since 1982 and awards grants to organisations working to build better relations within and between traditions in Northern Ireland, between North and South, and between Ireland and Britain.

The annual budget for the Fund was €2.7 million in 2018. In May 2018, on the 20th Anniversary of the referendums on the Good Friday Agreement, I announced that it would be increased to €3.7 million from 2019 onwards, reflecting the Government's unwavering commitment to the Agreement and to supporting the vital work of reconciliation being carried out by civil society and groups in Northern Ireland and across this island. This additional €1 million in funding represented an increase of 37%.

If the budget were further increased by the percentages indicated by the Deputy, the additional cost would amount to:

Percentage Increase

Additional Cost

5%

€185,000

10%

€370,000

15%

€555,000

20%

€740,000

Any further increases in the budget for the Reconciliation Fund would also need to take account of the level of staffing resources required to ensure the continued effective operation of the Fund.

More information on the Reconciliation Fund and lists of grants issued previously are available on my Department’s website at: https://www.dfa.ie/about-us/funding/reconciliation-fund/.

Overseas Development Aid Expenditure

Ceisteanna (162)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

162. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the expenditure on overseas development aid; the estimated cost of reaching the 0.7% of gross national product for overseas development aid target from its current base of approximately 0.3%, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27596/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Budget 2019 saw the highest increase in funding available to Official Development Assistance (ODA) in over a decade, with the Government allocating just over €817 million for ODA. This represents an increase of approximately €110 million, or 16%, on the allocation announced in budget 2018.

Sustained, managed increments in ODA will be required to deliver 0.7% of Gross National Income to ODA by 2030 in line with the Government's commitment. A steady and phased approach to growth will be required, taking into consideration the range of demands across Government and the capacity of the public finances to meet them. This will also need ongoing careful planning and consultation with other Government Departments and stakeholders.

The table below sets out indicative allocations to ODA, based on current economic growth forecasts, which show a possible phased path to reaching the 0.7% target by 2030. Allocations will be made annually as part of the normal budgetary process.

Year

ODA level € Million

Expected ODA/GNI % Target

2019

817

0.30%

2023

1,400

0.50%

2025

1,800

0.57%

2027

2,100

0.62%

2030

2500

0.70%

Diplomatic Representation

Ceisteanna (163)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

163. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the nature of diplomatic ties between Ireland and Vietnam; his plans to further develop the links; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27610/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland established diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1996 and opened an Embassy in Hanoi in 2005. Vietnam is accredited to Ireland on a non-resident basis through its Embassy in London. Vietnam has been an Irish Aid key partner country since 2005 and the bilateral relationship has been underpinned and strengthened by this development cooperation programme which focuses on ethnic minority empowerment and development, civil society support and on institutional exchange and capacity building.

Bilateral relations between Ireland and Vietnam are positive and President Michael D. Higgins paid a State Visit to Vietnam in November 2016. Most recently, Minister of State at the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Patrick O'Donovan TD, visited Vietnam in March of this year while Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development, Ciaran Cannon TD, visited Hanoi in November 2018.

A strategy for Ireland’s continued engagement in Vietnam and the Mekong sub-region (2017-2020) was approved in 2017. The strategy has three high-level objectives: i) Ireland’s People in the region are well served, better protected and more closely linked; ii) Ireland’s Prosperity is enhanced through trade, investment, EU and people-to-people engagement and institutional exchange; and, iii) Ireland’s Values and Influence contribute to a more stable and secure rules-based international environment, the protection of human rights, reduced inequalities and the empowerment of people to participate in their own development.

The Department works closely with State Agencies and other relevant Government Departments to advance trade and investment relations with Vietnam which is an emerging priority market for Ireland in a number of sectors including agri-food, medical technology, education, aviation, renewable energy, and ICT services.

United Nations

Ceisteanna (164)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

164. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions regarding the murder of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27668/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Agnes Callamard, into the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi makes for horrific and shocking reading.

An Interactive Dialogue with Ms. Callamard took place at the UN Human Rights Council on 26 June, covering all issues within her mandate. Ireland supported an EU statement at that session welcoming Ms. Callamard's report, condemning the killing in the strongest possible terms, and stressing that full accountability must be achieved. The EU statement called on Saudi Arabia to disclose all information available and to fully cooperate with all investigations into the killing.

Ireland also took the opportunity to make a national statement in this dialogue, emphasising that the protection of journalists and media workers is essential in protecting and promoting the freedom of expression. Specifically on the death of Mr. Khashoggi, Ireland supported the report’s focus on accountability, and joined calls that those responsible for the killing must be held to account.

Ireland, from the beginning, has supported calls for thorough, credible and transparent investigation into the killing of Mr Khashoggi, which must get to the facts of the case and ensure full accountability for all those responsible. During the last Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia's human rights record at the HRC in November 2018, Ireland raised concerns regarding the case. In March 2019 Ireland signed a joint statement at the HRC condemning the killing, and calling on Saudi Arabia to disclose all information available and to fully cooperate with all investigations into the killing, including the inquiry by the Special Rapporteur.

I met with the Saudi Ambassador in October 2018 and February 2019 and stressed the need for a full and transparent investigation to establish the truth.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right under international human rights law and journalists play a vital role in holding governments to account. In September 2018, Ireland co-sponsored a resolution on ‘Safety of Journalists’ at the HRC, condemning all violence against journalists and urging all states to ensure accountability for such attacks.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (165)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

165. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to an article regarding surveillance (details supplied); his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27741/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I have been made aware of the article in question regarding surveillance technology being supplied to assist with the development of facial recognition software in Serbia. The internal security of any State is a national competence. Ireland considers it important that in safeguarding internal security, States take account of fundamental rights. In this instance, the merits of facial recognition technologies must be weighed against the cost to privacy and freedom.

While evolutions in technology bring with it innumerable benefits in advancing our societies, the development of such technologies should work for, rather than against citizens, with full respect for international law and human rights. The use of any technology that collects biometric or personal data, whether used for security purposes or otherwise, should be preceded by a full data protection risk assessment.

Serbia is a candidate to join the EU. Becoming a member of the Union entails fully adopting the acquis , including in the areas of justice, freedom and security. Candidate countries’ use of such technology should align with European standards.

Departmental Projects

Ceisteanna (166)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

166. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of live studies, reviews and research undertaken or commissioned by him; and the date by which each study, review and research is scheduled to be completed. [27883/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

There are no such live projects scheduled to be completed in my Department.

Departmental Information

Ceisteanna (167)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

167. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the documents published by his Department since 1 January 2016 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27914/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

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

My Department has published a wide range of policy documents and strategies since 2016 and these are routinely posted to our website, so that citizens and stakeholders are kept informed about the work of my Department.

Some of the key policy documents and strategies published by my Department since 1 January 2016 are set out in the following table.

Publication Date

Policy Document/Strategy

2016 (first published)

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ‘Corporate Governance Framework’

2016

The European Union's Strategic Agenda agreed at the June European Council.

2016

Vietnam Country Strategy Programme 2011-2015 Evaluation Report

2016

Audit Committee Annual Report 2015

2016

The Irish Aid Development Education Strategy 2017-2023

2016

Malawi Country Strategy Programme 2016-2020

2016

Uganda Country Strategy Programme 2016-2020

2016

Tanzania Country Strategy Programme 2017-2021

2016

South Africa Country Strategy Programme 2017-2021

2016

Vietnam Mission Strategy 2017-2020

2016

Zambia Country Strategy Programmes 2018-2022

2016

Mozambique Country Strategy Programme 2018-2019

2017 (launch date)

National Plan on Business and Human Rights, 2017-2020

2017

Midterm review of Ireland’s second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

2017

A Focused Policy Review of Ireland’s Bilateral Diplomatic Mission Network in the USA

2017

Ireland Connected: Trading and Investing in a Dynamic World (published along with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

2017

Audit Committee Annual Report 2016

2017

Irish Aid Social Protection Strategy 2017

2017

Evaluation of Irish Aid's Provincial Programme in Inhambane and Nassa, Mozambique 2007-2016

2018 (update published)

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Corporate Governance Framework

2018

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Statement of Strategy 2017-2020

2018

Audit Committee Annual Report 2017

2018

Ireland in Germany: A Wider Deeper Footprint.

2018

Women as Agents of Change: Towards A Climate and Gender Justice Approach

2019

Global Ireland, Ireland’s Strategy for the US and Canada 2019-2025.

2019

TravelWise: Staying safe and informed while travelling abroad. Ireland’s Consular Strategy 2019-2022.

2019

National Statement on the European Union to inform Ireland’s contribution to the European Union’s Strategic Agenda 2019 -2024.

2019

Final review of Ireland’s second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

2019

Ireland’s third National Action Plan for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions

2019

Ireland’s Policy for International Development ‘A Better World’

2019

Ireland’s Strategy for Partnership with Small Island Developing States

2019

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Human Resources Strategy 2019-2022

Working Holiday Visas

Ceisteanna (168)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

168. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of working holiday authorisations granted to citizens of the United States of America that have applied through the Irish Embassy and consulates in the USA in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27931/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

In 2008, Ireland and the US signed a Memorandum of Understanding on an Intern Work and Travel Pilot Programme (a.k.a. the Working Holiday Agreement) that enables Irish and US citizens to work and travel in each other's country for up to 12 months. The agreement reflects not only the close historical and cultural links between Ireland and the US, but also the vibrancy of the modern economic and commercial relationship between our countries.

These Working Holiday Authorisations (WHAs) are intended to facilitate US citizens who wish to travel for an extended period in Ireland and to engage in employment as an incidental aspect of their holiday.

In 2017, 528 WHAs were granted to US citizens through the Government’s Embassy and Consulate network in the US. In 2018, 466 were granted and to date in 2019, 203 have been granted, with 37 pending and in the system.

Earlier in the year, the Government launched a new strategy for the US and Canada. In this ambitious Strategy, the Government has committed to doubling Ireland’s impact and footprint in the US over the period to 2025. Underpinning this, and indeed underpinning the overall Ireland-US bilateral relationship, are the close people-to-people links between our two countries.

Along with academic exchanges and our long term support for the diaspora in the US, WHAs help foster these people-to-people links and the Government’s strategy for the US and Canada commits to promoting these valuable exchange opportunities and specifically increasing the uptake of WHAs. This action will create new champions for the transatlantic relationship and will foster ever closer links between Irish and US citizens.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (169)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

169. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on reports that tuberculosis is widespread in detention centres in Libya; his further views on the treatment of detainees and the conditions which they are subjected to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28032/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The situation in Libya has deteriorated significantly in recent months, with an outbreak of conflict which has put civilians, including migrants and refugees in danger. I am concerned by persistent reports of desperate conditions and mistreatment of migrants and refugees in detention centres. Recent reports of an outbreak of tuberculosis in some detention centres, with a number of people confirmed to have died of the disease in one detention centre, are a matter of particular concern. Ireland and the EU believe that detention centres are not a suitable place for migrants in Libya, and should be closed. This outbreak further underlines that this is the case.

Political fragmentation and the fragile security situation in Libya limit the capacity of the international community to access all areas where migrants are located, or to influence the situation on the ground. The EU provides support to the work of the UNHCR and IOM in Libya, which have staff on the ground there, and who are best placed to provide protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants and refugees in detention centres and elsewhere. They are also working on relocating migrants and refugees to safer places, both inside Libya, and where voluntary return is possible, to their countries of origin.

Ultimately, ensuring adequate treatment of migrants and refugees will require restoration of political stability, and a fully functioning Government. Ireland and the EU continue to support the efforts of the UN Special Representative, Ghassan Salamé, to bring this about. All Libyans, and all international parties, should give their full support to the UN-led political efforts, and parties should ensure that they follow through on commitments made during the talks. All EU Member States have called on the parties to the conflict in Libya to immediately implement a ceasefire, and to re-engage in the UN-led process for an inclusive political settlement. This is the only way to ensure that civilians in Libya, including migrants and refugees, will no longer have to endure the mistreatment and desperate conditions that have been reported.

EU Issues

Ceisteanna (170)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

170. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position of the European Union on the status of US-Iran relations including sanctions imposed by the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28033/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Growing tensions between the United States and Iran which have escalated in recent months and weeks, are a worrying development. Following US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) last year, the EU conveyed our great regret at the decision to the US Government. The EU believes that there is no credible alternative to the JCPOA, which was a significant diplomatic achievement. We remain fully committed to its preservation and full implementation, which is in the security interest of all. We share the US view that Iran's ballistic missile activities should be curtailed, and that its regional activities have exacerbated and prolonged conflicts. However, we believe that the best way to achieve an end to these is to show that diplomatic problem-solving can work, by holding to the gains from the nuclear agreement.

Following the recent ratcheting up of tensions, High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini made a statement on 13 May 2019, which called on both parties to show maximum restraint and to avoid any escalation on a military side. This view was also directly shared with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by HR/VP Mogherini in her consultations with him in May. The EU has expressed deep regret at the continuing US efforts to tighten general economic sanctions on Iran, and also at Iran’s subsequent decision to partially suspend its operation of some commitments under the JCPOA, including limitations on its stocks of nuclear materials. We are also very concerned about the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, for which there can be no excuse. No party has yet claimed responsibility for these. The European Union will continue to monitor tensions between the US and Iran, and where the opportunity arises with both Governments and relevant interlocutors, will encourage a return to diplomatic dialogue and constructive communication.

The EU strongly urges Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the JCPOA in full and to refrain from any escalatory steps. Ireland and the EU will continue to endeavour to ensure the effective fulfilment of the JCPOA and adherence to its commitments by all remaining parties. All parties to the JCPOA, including Iran, Russia and China, met in Vienna on 28 June to discuss continuing implementation of the agreement.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (171)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

171. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of talks to restore the Executive in Northern Ireland; the progress made to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28034/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The absence of vital institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is of grave concern for the Government, as it is for the British Government.

Inclusive multi-party talks are continuing in Belfast involving all five main parties and the two Governments, with a view to reaching agreement which would secure the operation of all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement at the earliest possible opportunity.

I have been engaging extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to encourage the parties to reach an accomodation on outstanding issues and engage substantively on the shape of a final agreement.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I believe that there remains a genuine but narrow window of opportunity to reach agreement in the period immediately ahead and intensive talks are continuing to this end.

There has been constructive engagement in the process and it is clear that the parties want to see the institutions of the Agreement operating again on a sustainable basis. There has been broad consensus on some issues, but also key issues are still to be resolved.

The awful murder of Lyra McKee and the outpouring of public feeling that followed demands a serious response at political level. People want to see real progress made. There is no patience for anything except urgent and determined progress, and an openness to new thinking.

Ultimately the challenge is for the parties to find an agreement. This will be difficult, but the two Governments believe that this can, and must, be achieved to get the devolved, power-sharing Assembly and Executive and the NSMC functioning again.

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.

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (172)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

172. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status and timeline for a citizenship application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28073/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Foreign Births Registration, by its nature, can be a detailed and complex process, genereally involving official documentation related to three generations and issued by several jurisdictions. Due to the complex nature of Foreign Births Registration, it takes on average between 6 to 12 months to process an application.

With regard to the specific application the Deputy has enquired about, I am advised that the application in question has been received. A member of the Foreign Births Registration Team will contact the applicant directly if any further documents or clarifications are required to process the application

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (173)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

173. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there will be more Getting Brexit Ready roadshows in 2019; the cost of running each of these roadshows; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26959/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Government has overseen and co-ordinated a sustained intensification of Brexit preparedness. As part of these efforts, my Department organised “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready” public information events in Cork, Galway, Monaghan, Dublin, Limerick and Donegal throughout autumn 2018 to inform and advise citizens and businesses about Brexit preparedness and the range of support measures and resources that the Government has put in place.

These events brought together over a dozen Agencies and their parent Departments – the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport - under one roof and were attended by approximately 2,500 people over the October-November period.

While I am currently not yet in a position to confirm any specific plans to hold further events in this particular format in 2019, other Brexit preparedness-related public information activities and events continue to be organised across Ireland by Government Departments and State Agencies on an ongoing basis. Since September 2018, there have been over 100 such events run across 22 counties and more will follow over the coming months. Relevant details on all these activities and events and on Brexit preparedness more generally can be found via the gov.ie/brexit website and the @BrexitReadyIRL Twitter account.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (174)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

174. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to have a bilateral meeting with his Portuguese counterpart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28160/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I met bilaterally with Portuguese Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Augusto Santos Silva when he visited Dublin in April 2018 and we are both regular attendees at meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council, which has responsibility for the EU’s external affairs.

While I have no plans to have another bilateral meeting with Minister Santos Silva in the immediate future, I will continue to engage regularly with him at EU-level and we will have further bilateral meetings where appropriate.

Consular Services

Ceisteanna (175)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

175. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when the new consulate general offices in Frankfurt and Los Angeles will open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28161/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The new Consulates General in Frankfurt and Los Angeles will open later this year with the first staff arriving at the end of August and the formal openings taking place a short time later once the office set-up is complete.

Working closely with the Embassy in Berlin, the new Consulate General in Frankfurt will focus on strengthening Ireland’s relationship with Germany, both bilaterally and in the context of our shared EU membership. The office will allow Ireland to build on our existing presence in this economic and financial powerhouse. The primary focus of the Mission will be on trade and economic issues, alongside political engagement with the federal authorities. Significant numbers of Irish companies operate in Hesse and there is potential to grow our engagement in areas such as FinTech. Frankfurt is also home to the European Central Bank and the Single Supervisory Mechanism, making it the financial capital of the Euro area, vitally important to Ireland’s economic interests. The office will also undertake an intensive public diplomacy programme, with a media and cultural promotion focus, to develop Ireland's profile and image in Hesse and the neighbouring states Rheinland-Pflaz and Saarland.

The new Consulate General in Los Angeles will facilitate the development of high level business, community and political contacts, and will maximise the economic opportunities on offer in the fifth largest economy in the world, particularly in relation to tech and the creative industries, but also in finance, bio-tech, healthcare, aerospace and aviation. The office will have a strong economic focus, with forty percent of the foreign direct investment to Ireland already coming from the west coast region of the US. The office will also strengthen our presence on the ground by opening up new opportunities for investment and job creation. The new Consulate General will focus on building networks and supporting the 140 Irish companies operating in California, several of whom have large operations in Southern California. It will also take a lead role in coordinating cultural and artistic linkages to Ireland, initially with a focus on Los Angeles but eventually California and Western US.

Help-To-Buy Scheme Data

Ceisteanna (176)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

176. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons in County Mayo that have availed of the help to buy scheme in 2018 and to date in 2019. [27673/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

Revenue statistics on the Help to Buy incentive are published at the following link:

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/tax-expenditures/htb/htb-monthly.aspx

As the Deputy will note, there were 79 Help to Buy claims in Mayo in 2018 and 46 between January and May so far this year.