I thank the Deputy for what is a fair question. Managing Brexit negotiations and preparation has been a key priority of the work of my Department in recent years, both at headquarters and overseas, including in the UK, for obvious reasons. Since 2016, additional staff have been assigned to the key divisions at headquarters with responsibility for Brexit matters, including the EU division and the Ireland, UK, Americas, IUKA division. Additional posts have also been established at our embassies in London, Berlin, and Paris and the permanent representation of Ireland to the European Union in Brussels. Our embassy in London remains our largest bilateral embassy. The additional staff assigned to the mission since the Brexit vote reflects the priority of our relationship with the UK. The resources will remain under close review and will be adjusted as required. Closer partnerships with the devolved administrations in Cardiff and Edinburgh remain strategically important. Our consul general in Edinburgh engages closely with the Scottish Government to deepen existing strong political, economic, community and cultural ties. The reopening of our consulate general in Cardiff earlier this year will ensure Wales-Ireland relations deepen in the coming years, particularly in political and economic terms.
The wider Team Ireland enjoys a significant footprint in Britain with our trade, tourism and investment agencies making a positive impact. The Global Ireland initiative supports Government efforts to grow and diversify export markets, inward investment and tourism as we prepare for the impact of Brexit. It will ensure Ireland is better positioned to build the alliances necessary to advance its interests and defend its position in a post-Brexit EU, while helping to secure our relationship with the UK and its constituent parts. The strategy includes a commitment to open a new consulate in a third location in Britain. During the visit by the Taoiseach to Manchester in June for the British Irish Council, he reiterated the Government’s commitment to opening an additional consulate in another UK location post-2019. We have not made a final decision on the location yet but Deputies could make a reasonable guess as to the priority cities.
In response to rising demand for passports, my Department has significantly strengthened the capacity of the passport office by recruiting approximately 300 additional staff.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
This includes over 200 temporary clerical officers assigned to the processing of applications. These measures remain under review. The Department will allocate additional staff resources as necessary to further augment our level of Brexit-related supports across Government and across our network overseas.