Passport Applications

Ceisteanna (22)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

22. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of an application for a passport by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36542/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am advised by the Passport Service that the application referred to was registered with the Passport Service on 5 June this year.

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act, 2008 (“The Act”). Section 14 of the Act provides, among other things, that for a passport to issue to a child under 18 years of age, the consent of all the child’s guardians must be received by the Passport Service.

Passport applications for children have specific witnessing requirements in respect of establishing the child applicant’s identity and establishing that consent for the issuance of a passport from all the child’s guardians has been granted.

I am advised by the Passport Service that staff at the Embassy through which the application was originally lodged have been in contact with the applicant’s guardians in order clarify the witnessing requirements for their child’s application.

I am further advised that the applicant’s guardians are required to submit original supporting documents in respect of their child’s application. Embassy staff have been in contact with the applicant’s guardians in order to confirm what documents are required for the application to be processed. 

Middle East Issues

Ceisteanna (23)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

23. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the death in solitary confinement of a person (details supplied) following a number of in-depth interrogations in Israeli holding centres; if he has contacted his Israeli counterpart regarding this death in custody to request an explanation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34683/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The human rights situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory is a matter of concern, in view of the frequency with which violations take place. This includes the treatment of prisoners in detention, and I have raised the subject of detention conditions directly with the Israeli authorities on my visits to the region.

Ireland has also raised these issues at EU level and in international fora. At the 41st session of the Human Rights Council in July, Ireland raised the issue of the unacceptable treatment of Palestinians in detention, especially minors, particularly in comparison to the treatment of Israeli citizens. Ireland also chose to highlight the issues of prisoners during the most recent Universal Periodic Review of Israel at the UN Human Rights Council, which took place in 2018. In that process, Ireland recommended that Israel ensure full respect for international human rights obligations, in particular those specified in Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, towards all prisoners, and that the UNCAT definition of torture be incorporated into Israeli legislation.

Specifically in relation to the case raised by the Deputy, the Israeli authorities have a responsibility to ensure transparency around all the circumstances relating to this death, something which is important in relation to all deaths in custody.  Israel must comply with its commitments under Article 91 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which requires the provision of adequate medical treatment for prisoners and the transfer of sick prisoners, who require special medical care, to hospitals.

My Department and I will continue to press on these issues in the relevant multilateral fora, and also, where appropriate, directly with Israel, both with the Israeli Embassy here and through our own Embassy in Tel Aviv. Ireland also provides financial support to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs who are active in relation to human rights issues, including prisoners. Their continued work is crucial in bringing these issues to light.

In relation to the specific individual referred to by the Deputy, my Department will continue to monitor this case through our Missions in the region.

Ebola Virus Outbreak

Ceisteanna (24)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

24. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the role and supports Ireland will provide in response to the latest Ebola crisis in view of the recent declaration regarding the outbreak of the disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [34722/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am concerned at the scale of the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is now the second largest recorded outbreak.  As of 20 August, 2,927 people were recorded as having been infected during this outbreak, of whom 1,961 died.

Building on the experience of the 2014-16 West Africa Ebola outbreak, Ireland is supporting non-governmental organisations and the World Health Organisation in their work helping communities to protect themselves from the virus. To date Ireland has directly provided €2.75 million in funding, strengthening the capacity of health facilities to vaccinate and treat those in need and building preparedness in the wider region. 

As a member of the EU, Ireland also contributes to the wider EU response to this Ebola crisis. To date, the EU has provided €47 million in humanitarian funding to the World Health Organisation, UN, Red Cross Movement and NGOs.  

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including through our Embassies in Tanzania and Uganda, is closely monitoring the situation and stands ready to respond further to the evolving situation.

Syrian Conflict

Ceisteanna (25)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

25. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to Irish persons aside from a person (details supplied) being held following the conflict in Syria and Iraq. [34723/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade closely monitors the situation on the ground in Syria through its accredited Embassy in Cairo and Honorary Consulate in Damascus, as well as through cooperation with international partners. The Department does not comment on individual consular cases. 

Syrian Conflict

Ceisteanna (26)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

26. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of efforts to return a person (details supplied) here; the meetings he has had in this regard; the progress made on the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34779/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Appropriate consular assistance is provided to all Irish citizens abroad where possible. Given the complex and sensitive nature of this consular case, it is not appropriate to go into details about options under consideration and ongoing contacts.

Passport Applications

Ceisteanna (27)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

27. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when a passport will be issued in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34794/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act, 2008 (“The 2008 Act”). The Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him/her. In order to meet this legal requirement, each person must demonstrate an entitlement to Irish citizenship in his/her passport application.

The applicant referred to was born in Ireland after January 1 2005. Any possible claim to citizenship for the applicant is governed by the terms of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 as amended (“The 1956 Act”). Section 6A of the 1956 Act provides that a person born in the State on or after 1 January 2005, where neither parent is an Irish or British citizen or otherwise entitled to reside in the State or Northern Ireland without restriction at the time of that person’s birth, may claim citizenship by birth in the State (and thereby establish eligibility for an Irish passport) only where a parent has been lawfully resident in the State for three years of the four years preceding his/her birth.

In such cases, proofs of lawful residence in the State are required to determine if a parent has the required three year residence. For non-EU parents, permission to remain in the State recorded on passports, and/or registration cards, as issued by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), are acceptable proofs of a parent’s lawful residence in the context of a passport application.

In this case, proof of lawful residence in the State for the required time-period prior to the applicant's birth was not submitted in support of the passport application. In the absence of such proof of lawful residence, an entitlement to citizenship, and therefore eligibility for an Irish passport, was not established.

Citizenship, including naturalisation, comes under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality. Further information on citizenship and naturalisation is available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.

Ministerial Advisers

Ceisteanna (28)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

28. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the name of each person employed as an adviser or special adviser to him and the Minister of State in his Department; the salary of each in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34847/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

There are currently four Special Advisors working in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as outlined below:

Name

 

Salary Scale

Matthew Lynch

Special Advisor to Tánaiste

Principal Officer Salary Scale

Chris Donoghue

Special Advisor to Tánaiste

Principal Officer Salary Scale

Laura McGonigle

Special Advisor to Tánaiste

Principal Officer Salary Scale

Paul Fox

Special Advisor to Minister of State for European Affairs

Assistant Principal Officer Salary Scale

All appointments were made in line with “Instructions to Personnel Officers – Ministerial Appointments for the 32nd Dáil” which included “Guidelines on staffing of Ministerial Offices” issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Every appointment in my Department is subject to the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour.

Passport Applications Administration

Ceisteanna (29)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

29. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when documentation and a refund will issue to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35032/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am advised by the Passport Service that a member of Passport Service staff was in contact with the applicant by phone in mid-August. As per her request, the applications referred to were formally cancelled.

The Passport Service has returned all supporting documents that were submitted with these passport applications and has requested that the applicant provide bank account details, in writing, to facilitate the refund of fees paid in respect of the passport applications.

Passport Services

Ceisteanna (30)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

30. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the countries other than EEA member states and Switzerland in which the passport card is accepted. [35173/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Irish passport card is valid for travel to 31 countries: all EU Member States, the members of the EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and Switzerland.

The Irish passport card is fully compliant with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations concerning requirements for passports in card format.  Since the passport card was launched in 2015, over 193,000 Passport Cards have been issued.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (31)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

31. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount expended on the renewal of licences (details supplied) by his Department since 2009 to date in 2019; the amount projected to be spent on the renewal of such licences by his Department over the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35342/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department uses the product referred to in support certain administrative services.

The amounts detailed below have been spent between 2008 and 2019. Licence renewal is due on the 1 January annually.

Year Spent

Amount

Years Covered

2019

 

 

2018

€4,054.94

2019

2017

€4,010.67

2018

2016

€8,034.36

2016 & 2017

2015

-

 

2014

€3,634.65

2015

2013

€7,609.13

2013 & 2014

2012

€12,028.5

2012

2011

-

 

2010

€15,697.61

 2011

2009

€13,898.90

 2010

2008

€9,248.44

 2009

Should the use of this product continue, it is expected that the spend per year will remain at similar levels to 2019

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (32)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

32. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the executions in Bahrain during the weekend of 27 July 2019; the action he and EU colleagues will take with the government of Bahrain in relation to the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35409/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The human rights situation in Bahrain is a matter of concern. I was deeply troubled to learn of the executions of three people in July, including human rights activists Ali Al Arab and Ahmed Al Malali. These executions follow on from a considerable erosion of fundamental freedoms in Bahrain in recent years, including freedom of opinion and expression.

On 27 July, the EEAS issued a statement with regard to the executions in Bahrain. The statement noted that “the death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity”. Ireland fully supports this statement.

The abolition of capital punishment is one of Ireland's international priorities and we condemn its use in all circumstances. A moratorium on the death penalty had been in place in Bahrain since 2010, and we saw the resumption of capital punishment in Bahrain in 2017 as a very negative development. Ireland joins with the EU in calling on Bahrain to again introduce a moratorium on executions, as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Ireland regularly raises our concerns on the human rights situation in Bahrain, and use of the death penalty, through the UN Human Rights Council. For example, in September 2018, Ireland expressed concerns about the ongoing restrictions on civil society space and the treatment of human rights defenders, and called on Bahrain to respect freedom of opinion and expression. In February 2019, Ireland reiterated concern at the ongoing detention of human rights defenders. In our most recent Item 4 statement at the Human Rights Council in June/July 2019, Ireland called on Bahrain to ensure respect for freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to a fair trial.

My Department regularly raises the issue of human rights abuses with the Bahraini authorities. Most recently, in March of this year officials from my Department raised our human rights concerns directly during a meeting with officials from the Embassy of Bahrain, which is based in London. 

My Department will continue to monitor developments in Bahrain, and to call on the Bahraini government to deliver on its stated commitment to make progress in relation to human rights. We shall do so both directly with Bahraini officials, as well as at EU and international level, whenever opportunities arise.

Gender Recognition

Ceisteanna (33, 34)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

33. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of applications for passports that have involved gender recognition certificates. [35518/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

34. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of applications for a passport that availed of section 11(2B) of the Passports Act 2008 (details supplied). [35534/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 34 together.

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act, 2008 (“The 2008 Act”). Section 38 of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 amended section 11 of the 2008 Act to provide for the issuing of a passport in a new gender and, if applicable, in a new name. Section 38 of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 was commenced by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection on September 4 2015.

Section 11(2A) of the 2008 Act provides for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to consider applications from an applicant who wishes to have a passport issued to him or her in a new gender and, if applicable, a new name when that applicant produces their gender recognition certificate as issued by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Section 11(2B) of the 2008 Act provides for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to consider applications from an applicant who may not be eligible for a gender recognition certificate (for example, by virtue of being born overseas to an Irish born parent) but who wishes to have a passport issued to him or her in a new gender and, if applicable, a new name. Under this subsection, the applicant is required to submit a statutory declaration declaring that the applicant has a settled and solemn intention of living in the new gender for the rest of his or her life and understands the consequences of the application, and if appropriate, evidence to the satisfaction of the Minister of the use by the applicant of the new name in support of their passport application.

The Passport Service does not categorise or subdivide applications based on a request in the application to note a change of gender. Indicative figures from a manual count of existing records show that the Passport Service received 116 passport applications where a gender recognition certificate was produced and 38 applications where a statutory declaration was produced since 4 September 2015.

Consultancy Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (35)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

35. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the names of external consultancies that delivered and continue to deliver advice and training on all aspects of GDPR in the context of preparedness and ongoing upskilling of staff regarding the regulation; the cost expended on the external advice and training of same to date in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35577/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Preparation and planning for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) intensified in my Department in 2016 with the appointment of a Data Protection Officer (DPO), as required by the GDPR. My Department’s policy is that its DPO be a certified Data Protection Practitioner.

As part of the Department’s preparations, ahead of the coming into force of the GDPR, the DPO delivered a series of tailored training programmes for key staff at home and abroad. Since the GDPR came into force in May 2018, my Department has continued to upskill and train staff on the GDPR on an ongoing basis. As a result, there is considerable internal expertise on data protection, so that our reliance on external consultancies to provide advice and training on GDPR is modest.

The following table sets out the names of the external service providers that delivered and/or continue to deliver advice and training on all aspects of the GDPR as well as the cost associated with each one.

Consultancy

Expenditure

PDP Training (2016-present) – including certification of current and former DPO as Data Protection Practitioners

€6,504.50

PDP GDPR/DP Conferences 2016, 2017 & 2018

€5,771.00

Public Affairs Ireland 2016, 2017 & 2018

€4,860.00

Institute of Public Administration 2018

€405.00

ICS Skills 2018

€1,750.00

Sytorus (Data Protection Specialists) 2018

€2,300.00

CMG Professional Training 2018 & 2019

€1,580.00

The Honorable Society of Kings Inns (2018-2019) - Deputy DPO completed Advanced Diploma in Data Protection Law

€2,350.00

Compliance with the GDPR is an ongoing obligation. In the coming year, my Department intends to roll out a suite of e-learning training modules to cover HQ and our missions abroad. This aligns with the Department’s commitment to ongoing professional development and upskilling for staff, and the People Strategy for the Civil Service 2017-2020.

Departmental Customer Charters

Ceisteanna (36)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

36. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of complaints his Department received under the customer service charter in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; if his attention has been drawn to issues and or problems in having complaints registered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35645/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

From time to time my Department receives comments from members of the public giving feedback on how we could improve our services both at home and at our 88 Missions abroad. We are committed to constantly improving how we conduct our business and to ensuring that our staff across all offices, both in Ireland and our global network of Embassies and Consulates, act in a highly professional manner at all times.

Within my Department, the Passport Service received more than 733,000 and 780,000 passport applications in 2016 and 2017 respectively.  In 2018, in excess of 862,000 applications were received. With this volume of applications, the Passport Service deals with the highest number of customers of any of the Divisions within my Department. 

The Passport Service has a formal complaints procedure in place to allow citizens to give feedback on the quality of the service they receive. The Passport Service aims to investigate and respond to complaints within 20 working days.

The number of complaints received for the years requested is presented below:

 Year

 Number of complaints

 2017

 92

 2018

 118

 2019

 139

*To 31 August

Foreign Policy

Ceisteanna (37, 42)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

37. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the fires in the Amazon; if he will report on the contact he has made with the Brazilian authorities regarding the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35829/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

42. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the widespread fires in the Amazon rainforest; the action he plans to take to deal with the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36099/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 42 together.

I am deeply concerned by the widespread fires that have devastated large areas of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and neighbouring countries. The Taoiseach has made a statement on the matter, voicing his concerns and urging the Brazilian Government to honour its environmental commitments under the Paris Agreement, a key element of the EU Mercosur trade deal.

I welcome the action taken by President Bolsonaro in the midst of this crisis, to scale up the national response by mobilising the army to tackle the fires and to strengthen surveillance, as well as announcing a 60-day ban on setting fires. I understand that the Brazilian Government is also studying ways to increase penalties for environmental crimes and to identify the source of the fires. President Bolsonaro further announced that South American countries will meet in early September to discuss a coordinated response.

The Mercosur Agreement includes a detailed chapter on the Sustainable Development Goals and recognises the need to address the urgent threat of climate change and the role trade has in that regard, as well as underscoring the importance of both Parties implementing provisions of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding, global agreement on climate change which puts in place the necessary framework for all countries to take ambitious mitigation action.

Recognising that climate change is a global phenomenon requiring collective action, Ireland is committed to working in step with the EU and our international partners, including Brazil, to find effective solutions and looks forward to related discussions and moving the agenda forward at the upcoming COP 25 in Santiago, Chile in December.

Brazil has affirmed the value and importance of bilateral cooperation and international financial support to contribute to the fight against fires and the protection of the Amazon rainforests, in line with national policies and complementary to multilateral mechanisms, outlining in particular existing instruments under the United Nation’s Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC),

Ireland is an active participant in the UNFCCC, which contains several instruments to finance deforestation reduction and reforestation activities. Ireland, along with our EU partners, remains committed to the collective goal of mobilising USD 100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020.

Ireland’s Ambassador to Brazil, Seán Hoy, visited the Amazon region in July and met with local government representatives and civil society organisations. Ireland will continue to monitor this issue closely and stands ready with our EU colleagues to support efforts to provide further practical assistance to the Brazilian Government.

Citizenship Status

Ceisteanna (38)

James Browne

Ceist:

38. Deputy James Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the citizenship of a child born abroad to a non-citizen in a same sex marriage in cases in which the non-birth mother is an Irish citizen; the reason the State does not recognise non-birth mother parentage with the result the child cannot secure citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35963/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

All passports are issued in accordance with the provisions of the Passports Act, 2008, as amended ("The 2008 Act"). Under the 2008 Act, a passport cannot be issued to a person unless the Minister is satisfied as to the identity of the person and that the person is an Irish citizen.

Citizenship is governed by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended ("The 1956 Act"), which is under the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality. Legislative measures relating to citizenship do not fall within the remit of my Department. I will therefore confine my answer to an explanation of the current citizenship legislation under which the Passport Service, which operates under my Department, is subject to.

Section 7 of the 1956 Act addresses citizenship by descent and provides that a person is an Irish citizen from birth if at the time of his or her birth either parent was an Irish citizen. An additional requirement of registration is imposed in respect of children born outside the island of Ireland where the Irish citizen parent was also born outside the island of Ireland.

For the purposes of the 1956 Act, a parent is understood to mean either the "mother" or "father" of the child. For the purpose of Irish law, the mother of a child is the person who gives birth to the child or a female adopter of a child. In general, the "father" is the person identified as the genetic father of the child or a male adopter.

Under the current legislation, where the Irish citizen is neither the birth mother nor the genetic father or neither the male nor female adopter of the child, the child does not qualify for Irish citizenship by descent.

The issue of citizenship of children born to same-sex parents is currently being considered across Government.

UN Resolutions

Ceisteanna (39)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

39. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he will develop a position on the UN treaty in the context of the publication of a revised legally binding instrument to regulate in international law the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises, that is, the UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights; and if Ireland will attend and engage constructively in the fifth session to negotiate the Treaty in order to stop corporate human rights violations. [36082/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The question of a legally binding treaty to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises has been under consideration by the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises.  The group was established on foot of a Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2014, led by a number of developing countries, including Ecuador and South Africa. Four sessions of the Group have taken place to date.   In advance of the fourth and most recent session in October 2018, Ecuador circulated a draft of a legally binding instrument. The group also held an informal consultation relating to the proposed instrument in Geneva in June this year, which Ireland attended. The next session of the group will take place in October 2019 and Ireland will continue to work with our EU partners to look at how we might actively and constructively engage in the negotiation process, notwithstanding our serious concerns about the way in which the work of the group has been conducted to date.  

I am aware that a revised draft of the legally binding instrument has been circulated in advance of the next session of the group. Officials in my Department are in the process of reviewing the draft to assess whether Ireland’s wide-ranging concerns in respect of the earlier document have been addressed.

While we are open to looking at options for progress on a legally binding treaty, we believe that all economic operators, whether transnational or purely domestic,  should be treated in a non-discriminatory manner. We would also wish to see essential human rights principles reflected in any possible instrument, which should reaffirm the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights and stress the primary responsibility of States under existing human rights obligations to protect against human rights violations.

Ultimately, if it is to achieve its objectives, any legally binding instrument should enjoy broad support among UN Member States to ensure its effectiveness as well as international coherence in the framework of business and human rights.  On this point, I would note that of the 22 countries which to date have adopted National Plans on Business and Human Rights, 16, including Ireland, are EU Member States.   We would like to see any new initiative build on, rather than duplicate, existing measures such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. Above all we believe that it should be rooted in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  In this regard, we are of the view that the UN Working Party on Business and Human Rights and the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights provide appropriate fora for consideration of any new initiatives.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (40)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

40. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to increased threats and attacks against human rights defenders and the high levels of violence in Chocó, Colombia (details supplied); and if he will raise the lack of protection and intensity in the threats with his Colombian counterpart. [36083/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am aware of the difficult situation that exists for human rights defenders across Colombia, and of the specific case in Chocó, Colombia to which you refer. I take these threats very seriously, and have expressed on several occasions my complete rejection of any violence or intimidation perpetrated against those defending fundamental rights and freedoms.

Officials from my Department met with Mr Carlos Fernandez, a member of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (CIJP) in September 2018. Mr Fernandez was accompanied by Peace Brigades International (PBI) as the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (CIJP) is one of the organisations that PBI protects in Colombia. My Department is pleased to support PBI in this important work and welcomes the regular engagement we have with the organisation and the human rights defenders it protects.   

Our new resident Embassy in Bogotá has been engaging with civil society, EU and multilateral partners on the human rights situation in the country, since it opened at the beginning of the year. We also regularly raise this issue in our exchanges with the Colombian Government, as well as in the Human Rights Council, most recently during the 30th session of the Universal Periodic Review, when we highlighted existing issues in Colombia and made a number of recommendations.

Ireland is committed to supporting human rights defenders across Colombia, and Ambassador Milton recently travelled to the Chocó region where she met with human rights organisations and representatives of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities threatened by illegal armed groups. 

Ireland has a long-standing commitment to peace and security in Colombia. The Taoiseach underlined Ireland's continuing support for the Colombian peace process in his meeting with President Duque en marge of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2018.

The peace process is fundamental to improving the human rights situation in the country and Ireland has contributed more than €14 million in support of that since 2007, mainly channelled through the United Nations, and Colombian and international NGOs focusing on human rights, conflict prevention, peace-building and supporting livelihoods for rural populations.

As well as financial support, Ireland has also provided ongoing support in the form of lesson-sharing based on our own experience of peace-building and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. Most recently, earlier this year my Department shared lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process with Colombia, facilitating a series of discussions with the government around the implementation of the peace accords.

Great strides have been made in the implementation of the peace accords in Colombia since they were signed in November 2016. However, significant challenges remain, including in the areas of rural reform, reincorporation of former combatants and the protection of human rights defenders, civil society activists and social leaders.

Not least among the lessons we have learned in 20 years of implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is how long it takes to build a sustainable peace and that it is not a linear process. Ireland will remain a committed supporter of Colombia and its efforts to secure long-lasting peace and security for its people.

I, along with officials at my Department in Dublin and at our Embassy in Bogotá, will continue to monitor the human rights situation across the country closely and to engage with our civil society, EU and international partners on this important issue.

Human Rights

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 37.

Ceisteanna (41)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

41. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Turkish Government has removed three democratically elected Kurdish mayors from office and Turkish authorities arrested more than 400 political activists in August 2019 as part of a deepening crackdown on Kurdish political parties (details supplied); his views on this development and the worsening human rights and democratic situation in Turkey; and if he will raise the issue with his Turkish counterpart. [36084/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Irish Government, together with our European partners, continues to view the situation in Turkey with regard to human rights, rule of law, and democracy with grave concern.

The Conclusions on Enlargement adopted on 18 June at the General Affairs Council noted that there has been continued backsliding on fundamental rights in Turkey, and that arrests, detentions, and other measures targeting journalists, academics, civil society actors, and elected officials cannot be condoned. Both the EU and the Government have repeatedly called on Turkey to reverse these negative trends and allow Turkish citizens to freely exercise their fundamental rights.

The dismissal of three democratically elected mayors and their replacement with Governors appointed by the central Government is a particular cause for concern. Such measures undermine the democratic outcomes of the local elections that were held at the end of March, and deprive voters of political representation at the local level. Anti-terror legislation must not be used as a political tool and must be exercised with respect for fundamental rights, the rule of law, and democracy.

Together with our European partners, we will continue to monitor developments in Turkey, and raise our concerns on human rights, freedom of expression, rule of law, and democracy.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 37.

Rapid Response Initiative

Ceisteanna (43)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

43. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a new recruitment campaign for the rapid response roster will be carried out before the end of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36104/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

A mustering  process refreshing the membership of the Rapid Response Roster was undertaken last year. Following completion of a training programme by successful applicants, the Irish Rapid Response Corps currently has over 120 experts who can be rostered to provide short notice surge capacity to our UN partner organisations.  

As the envisaged lifespan of the current roster is three to four years, there are no plans to undertake an additional muster for the Rapid Response Roster before the end of 2019.

Departmental Internships

Ceisteanna (44)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

44. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of unpaid internships issued and or granted to persons to work in his Department over the past five years to 28 August 2019; the number of persons who took up unpaid internship roles in that timeframe; if his Department continues to offer unpaid internships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36149/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Internship programmes within my Department are normally remunerated.

There is an arrangement with two international colleges (University of Notre Dame and the National School of Public Administration in Warsaw) whereby short term placements are offered in the Department to international students for a period of between four and six weeks on an unpaid basis. These intern placements, while are filled on an annual basis, contribute to deepening understanding of work in peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland and our membership of the European Union .

The respective colleges nominate the candidates and approach my Department with a request for the placements.

Please see details below:

Year

4-Week Placement

6-Week Placement

2015

2

2

2016

2

1

2017

2

1

2018

2

1

2019 (to 31 August)

1

0

Cyber Security Protocols

Ceisteanna (45)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

45. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there are dedicated, professionally trained and certified cybersecurity staff in relation to cybersecurity protocols under the remit of his Department; if such specialists are being recruited; if his Department maintains a risk register of security breaches; if so, if there are staff that analyse, log and maintain such a register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36229/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department takes cyber security very seriously and takes appropriate measures and deploys specialised skills to minimise the risk to our data networks and assets. Any threatening activity is monitored and logged. The Department fully co-operates with the National Cyber Security Centre and implements recommendations made by that agency. It is not considered appropriate to give detailed information on the Department’s security systems.

Departmental Operations

Ceisteanna (46)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

46. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department has a disaster recovery plan, business continuity plan and or disaster recovery sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36245/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department has a number of procedures in place to protect its ICT systems in the event of serious incidents. This is especially important, given the global reach of the Department and the threats posed by cybersecurity. The Department operates multiple datacentres with Disaster Recovery plans in place to failover in the event of disruption.  These failover procedures are regularly tested. Appropriately skilled engineers are deployed to ensure business continuity and service delivery. The Department also makes mobile technology available to its employees to increase its options in the event of a site being unavailable.