Questions Nos. 37 to 46, inclusive, answered orally.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 42.

Ceisteanna (47, 59)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

47. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if matters regarding legacy issues, in particular the withholding of State documents by the UK Government for incidents such as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974, were addressed in view of the level of bilateral conversations with the UK regarding Brexit; and if not, his plans to do so at the next opportunity. [37372/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

59. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the input by his Department into the ongoing outstanding requests with the UK Government regarding inquiries into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26668/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 59 together.

17 May last marked the 45th anniversary of the appalling attacks of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in which 33 people were murdered. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan TD, represented the Government at the remembrance ceremony in Dublin.

The Government stands in solidarity with all those who lost loved ones or were injured on that day, and who suffer still as a result of these bombings.

The implementation of the All-Party Dáil motions relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is a priority for the Government, as highlighted in the Programme for a Partnership Government.

The All-Party motion on the 1974 Dublin Monaghan bombings adopted by the Dáil on 25 May 2016 has, like those adopted in 2008 and 2011, been conveyed to the British Government.

These motions call on the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as well as the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk and the murder of Seamus Ludlow.

The Government is committed to actively pursuing the implementation of these all-Party Dáil motions. We have consistently raised the issue with the British Government on a bilateral basis, including at the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference, most recently on 8 May.

I and Minister Flanagan made clear to our counterparts at the Conference that the absence of a response from the British Government is of deep concern to the Government, and that there remains an urgent need for a response.

The Government will continue to engage with the British Government on this request, at senior political level and in official level engagement by my Department, to pursue all possible avenues to achieve progress on this issue, consistent with the request made by this House and until a resolution is found.

The Government maintains a close and cooperative relationship with Justice for the Forgotten, as we continue work to seek the full facts of the appalling events of 25 May 1974 and of other attacks in this jurisdiction during the Troubles.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 42.

Departmental Staff Safety

Ceisteanna (49)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

49. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he is seeking to hire a private security company to provide bodyguard services, armoured transportation, vehicle tracking and route planning for diplomatic staff; if so, the reason he is seeking private security assistance and not using An Garda Síochána or personnel from the Defence Forces for same; the value of the contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37236/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The safety and security of our people who are serving the State and Irish citizens overseas is a top priority for my Department. Officers and their dependents travel and live for extended periods of time in over ninety locations around the world. There are particular security challenges in some locations and access to timely and reliable information is essential.

As part of a suite of measures to enhance the safety and security of officers posted overseas, my Department recently published a tender seeking global security and medical advice. This investment is important given the expansion of the Embassy network under the Global Ireland 2025 Strategy including to parts of the world where the security situation can be dynamic and uncertain. The successful service provider will assist my Department in strengthening the mitigation of particular security and medical risks in these locations.

The principal focus of the security service is specialised international security advice and assistance for our officers and their dependents before and during travel abroad. The particular services referred to by the Deputy are additional services not specified in the Tender, but which may be required from time to time over the course of the contract.

These specialised services will complement and not replace the valuable and comprehensive supports provided to my Department by An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces. This includes advice and measures to protect officers and state assets abroad and for the evacuation of Irish citizens in consular emergencies.

The Department estimates that the security advice and assistance provided by the successful tenderer may cost €225,000 excluding VAT over the three – year term of the contract.

Millennium Development Goals

Ceisteanna (50)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

50. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress that has been made in developing a roadmap to achieve Ireland's ODA/GNI target by 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37464/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I refer to my response to Parliamentary Question 62 of 18 June 2019, which sets out a possible path to reaching the 0.7% target by 2030.

Ireland’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) is an essential element of our overall foreign policy and national presence overseas, enabling Ireland to respond to complex human needs and humanitarian crises around the world. Peer reviews by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have consistently stated that Ireland’s development cooperation programme is of the highest quality.

Along with a group of like-minded countries, including other EU partners, the Government remains committed to making incremental, sustainable progress towards achieving the UN target of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2030. The Programme for Government states that “we will continue to make progress towards achieving the UN target of 0.7% of gross national product for ODA, as economic conditions allow and resources permit”.

The Government reaffirmed its commitment to delivering 0.7% of GNI to ODA by 2030 in its Global Ireland Strategy. Ireland's new policy for international development, A Better World, was launched earlier this year and provides the framework for that expansion. In order to achieve this ambition difficult choices will be required between competing priorities, especially if economic circumstances change, and this will require ongoing careful planning and consultation with other Government Departments and stakeholders if a steady, phased and prudent approach is to be achieved.

Based on current projections for economic growth, which may change as circumstances evolve, achieving the 0.7% target by 2030 would mean more than tripling the current allocations to ODA, and require sustained, substantial managed increments given that the point of departure is 0.3% of GNI this year.

The Government is already making progress, having increased allocations to official development assistance by 32% since 2014. Budget 2019 saw the highest increase in funding available in over a decade, with Irish official development assistance in 2019 forecast to reach almost €817 million, an increase of approximately €110 million and a 16% increase on the allocation announced in budget 2018.

Further sustained, managed increments will be required to deliver on the 0.7% commitment by 2030, taking into consideration the range of demands across Government and the capacity of the public finances to meet them.

I can send the Deputy in writing a table which 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 of course be made annually as part of the normal budgetary process.

Year

ODA level € Million

Expected ODA/GNI % Target

2019

817

0.30%

2023

1400

0.50%

2025

1800

0.57%

2027

2100

0.62%

2030

2500

0.70%

Middle East Issues

Ceisteanna (51)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

51. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to recent attacks by Israel in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq; his views on the attacks and the increased tension on the border with Israel and Lebanon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37237/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The recent flare-up of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel along the Lebanese border is very worrying. It is the responsibility of all concerned to show restraint and de-escalate tensions when they arise, and to respect the sovereignty of their neighbours. I am relieved to see that the situation appears to have calmed in recent weeks.

Of course, both Lebanon and Syria remain officially in a state of war with Israel, with the most serious recent conflict taking place in 2006. While this situation persists, the risk of tensions leading to serious violence cannot be ruled out. Ireland believes that an end to conflict, and to the formal state of war, is very much in the best interests of the entire region. The presence of Irish troops deployed to UNIFIL along the border make this a matter of particular concern for Ireland.

I am aware of reports that Israel is responsible for recent attacks on Iranian targets in Iraq and along the Iraq-Syria border. Ireland does not have independent sources of information on this so I will not comment on the accuracy of these reports. I would not support or condone attacks of this nature, which risk further destabilising a region where hundreds of thousands have been killed in conflict, and where groups such as Islamic State remain ready to take advantage of the situation to pursue their horrifying activities.

Iran’s activities in the region, not least in Syria in support of the Assad regime, also constitute a major destabilising factor which merit strong condemnation. I have personally made clear these views to the Iranian Ambassador to Ireland.

I also repeat my call on all regional actors to show restraint and refrain from any escalatory actions, which could further undermine regional stability, as well as add to the suffering of civilians.

Departmental Staff Safety

Ceisteanna (52)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

52. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the workplace supports available to staff in his Department involved in consular cases, particularly in very difficult cases such as Malaysia in summer 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36514/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Irish people continue to travel overseas in greater numbers than ever before and the demand for consular assistance has increased significantly in recent years. In 2018, my Department provided assistance to Irish citizens in over 2,343 serious consular cases. Regrettably this included assistance in over 292 cases where citizens died abroad.

A new Consular Strategy 2019-2022 was launched in May, with a focus on ensuring a high standard of customer care continues to be delivered to Irish citizens.

I recognise that there is a risk that this work can impact on staff well-being and welfare, particularly when dealing with highly sensitive consular cases. The nature of the work requires a comprehensive range of measures to support officers.

The Consular Division of the Department includes a number of skilled and trained staff who can provide support to colleagues who are based overseas. Formal debriefing and supervision is provided routinely for those who are assisting in complex and distressing cases. Consular Division is also currently running a pilot mental health support programme for staff with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services.

Prior to taking up a posting overseas, staff are provided with comprehensive training in the management of consular cases. The support is provided by experienced consular assistance managers who have themselves undertaken mental health courses. Training and advice is also provided by organisations such as the Rape Crisis Centre, the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust and the Irish Hospice Foundation.

In addition, my Department retains a support service operated by an external provider, Workplace Options, for all posted staff and their families. The service provides confidential welfare advice and counselling on a twenty four-hour basis.

The Civil Service Employee Assistance Service (CSEAS) more generally has a wide range of free and confidential supports to staff. The Department’s Employee Assistance Officer, based in Dublin, provides advice to colleagues who are based overseas.

I am confident that the range of workplace supports provided is comprehensive in assisting staff to manage complex and challenging consular cases.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (53)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

53. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the efforts he and his European counterparts are making to ensure human and democratic rights in China, particularly in view of the recent protests in Hong Kong; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37381/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The protection and promotion of universal human rights is one of Ireland's core foreign policy issues, and we, along with our European counterparts, consistently raise our concerns with regard to the human rights situation in China.

At a bilateral level, Ireland and our partners in the EU discuss these matters during political and official contacts with the Chinese authorities. In April this year, the EU also raised human rights concerns with China at both the annual EU-China Summit and the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue. Ireland and the EU regularly raise human rights concerns at multilateral level, in particular at the Human Rights Council, the current session of which is underway in Geneva. Ireland also participated in China’s Universal Periodic Review last November, calling for China to respect freedom of religion and belief.

With regards to Hong Kong, Ireland and the EU have been consistent in our support for the One Country, Two Systems principle.

As I have noted previously in this House, Ireland supports the right to peaceful assembly as an important element of democracy, and has consistently encouraged restraint from violence and has encouraged engagement in inclusive dialogue.

The EU, with the support of Ireland, has issued statements in response to developments in Hong Kong. The most recent statement was released on the 17 August by High Representative Mogherini on behalf of the EU. This statement called for urgent steps to be taken to de-escalate the situation, and for all key stakeholders to engage in a broad-based and inclusive dialogue. During the current session of the Human Rights Council on 10 September, the EU also expressed support for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' call for the demonstrations to remain peaceful and for the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom of assembly.

In that regard, the recent overtures towards dialogue from the Chief Executive are a welcome move.

The Consulate General of Ireland in Hong Kong, along with the EU Office and representatives of other EU Member States, have been engaging regularly with the Hong Kong authorities and will continue to monitor developments.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (54, 60)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

54. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the unprecedented forest fires in Brazil, particularly in the Amazon rainforest (details supplied); and the steps he is taking to ensure that the Amazon, the indigenous population that live there and its unique ecosystem are protected. [37239/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

60. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the Government is still intent on supporting the Mercosur trade deal in view of the devastation of the fires in the Amazon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37468/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54 and 60 together.

The fires burning in the Amazon have highlighted the international importance of the Amazon rainforest, particularly in the context of global action on climate change.

It is essential that each country plays its part in this effort. The Taoiseach has highlighted the value Ireland places on this, voicing concerns regarding the fires and urging the Brazilian Government to honour its environmental commitments under the Paris Agreement, a key element of the EU Mercosur trade deal.

The Mercosur Agreement includes a detailed chapter on the Sustainable Development Goals and recognises the need to address climate change, as well as underscoring the importance of both Parties implementing provisions of the Paris Agreement.

I welcome the action taken by President Bolsonaro to address this crisis, including mobilising the army to tackle the fires and introducing a 60-day ban on setting fires. Representatives of several affected countries in the region met in Colombia earlier this month to discuss the crisis. The 'Leticia Amazon pact' signed by the group aims to increase regional coordination and step up efforts to tackle the crisis, and I discussed the situation with the Foreign Minister of Colombia, Carlos Holmes Trujillo García, whom I meet earlier today.

The group was joined at the meeting by leaders of indigenous communities affected by deforestation and the fires in the Amazon. It is important that these groups are engaged on this issue, and I am deeply concerned by the reports of threats, intimidation and violence against environmental and indigenous rights defenders in Brazil, and across the wider Latin America region.

Support for human rights defenders and an open civil society space is a cornerstone of Ireland's foreign policy. The Ambassador of Ireland to Brazil, Seán Hoy, visited the Amazon region in July and met with local government representatives and civil society organisations.

Addressing the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and deforestation requires effective multilateral cooperation, and Ireland continues to engage on this issue at the EU and international level. This engagement takes place through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement. Ireland provides support to a number of UNFCCC instruments that contribute financing to deforestation reduction and reforestation activities.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Ceisteanna (55)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

55. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the role of his Department in supporting the special envoy to the US Congress on the undocumented; and the resources available to the envoy. [28113/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Taoiseach appointed Deputy John Deasy as Special Envoy to the United States Congress on the Undocumented Irish in June 2017. As the Taoiseach indicated at the time of the appointment, no additional remuneration is paid to the Deputy Deasy in his role as Special Envoy.

Deputy Deasy is supported, from a logistical perspective, by my staff in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The staff resources required are drawn from existing resources in relevant sections of my Department, as needed and on a case by case basis. Deputy Deasy is, in particular, supported by the Americas Unit of my Department and by the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, D.C. Likewise, Deputy Deasy’s travel and subsistence expenses are covered from within the existing resources of my Department, as and when he undertakes activities in connection with his role as Special Envoy.

Over the last year, Deputy Deasy has engaged with key US stakeholders on the issue of E3 visas for Irish citizens. In this regard, Deputy Deasy has met with senior officials in the US Administration as well as with key representatives from the US Congress in relation to this visa bill. Over St. Patrick’s Day 2019, Deputy Deasy also accompanied the Taoiseach on some of his engagements in Washington, D.C. He also participated in key elements of the visit of US Speaker Pelosi and her accompanying Congressional delegation in April, engaged with senior US officials during the visit of President Trump in June, and took part in engagements with a bipartisan Congressional delegation that visited in July.

EU Migration Crisis

Ceisteanna (56)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

56. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the refusal of Italy and Malta to allow ships carrying asylum seekers to dock at their ports (details supplied); and the steps he is taking in response to this humanitarian crisis. [37238/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Deputies are aware of my deep concern about the humanitarian situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a comprehensive approach to migration.

Italy and Malta have been two of the EU states most affected by the current migration crisis. While the social, economic and political stresses arising from the crisis are very considerable, it is essential that humanitarian and legal obligations continue to be met. The new Italian Government is considering the Italian position on access for NGO ships. Following agreement on redistribution with other Member States, Italy allowed people, from the Ocean Viking ship, to disembark in Lampedusa at the weekend. I was also pleased to note that the new Government in its programme for Government has indicated that it will revise the ‘Security and Migration’ legislation introduced by former Minister Salvini under the previous administration.

Migration remains a difficult issue within the Union where views can often be sharply divided. There are countries which have been required to take in large numbers of asylum seekers and others who continue to resist taking in any. We have consistently called for all EU Member States to play their part in burden-sharing and to help to relieve pressure on front-line Member States like Italy and Malta.

The dignity and human rights of those rescued at sea must be respected. Savings lives at sea is a major priority for my Department and this Government. Ireland has been active in Search and Rescue missions in the Mediterranean since 2015. The Irish Naval Service has rescued more than 17,500 people since the beginning of the crisis.

In addition, Ireland has provided humanitarian assistance in solidarity with other Member States on separate occasions by making pledges to take migrants who were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea and to process their applications for international protection.

Since 2015, Ireland has admitted over 2,500 people under the EU Relocation Programme and the UNHCR-led refugee Resettlement Programme.

But I believe we need to move from an ad hoc approach and Ireland is working with our EU partners to resolve the migration issue and find more sustainable solutions. We believe the solution will involve consensus among Member States based on solidarity and responsibility. Ireland supports measures to address the root causes of irregular migration, through humanitarian and developmental programmes in origin and transit countries and closer political, economic and development relationships between the EU and its neighbouring countries.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (57)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

57. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 52 of 29 January 2019, the assessment he has made of the extent to which arms supplied by Saudi Arabia are reaching terrorist groups in Yemen; the assessment made of the recent peace talks between the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37460/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The crisis in Yemen is a matter of grave concern, and a solution is urgent. More than four years into the conflict, Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with almost 80% of the population in need of humanitarian assistance. Ireland supports the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths to bring about a political resolution to the crisis in Yemen, including his efforts to ensure implementation of the 2018 Stockholm agreement between the Government of Yemen and the Houthi de facto authorities.

I am very conscious that this is a multifaceted and extremely complex conflict, involving a number of local, regional and international power struggles, often rooted in Yemen’s historical divisions. The persistence of the conflict risks leading to further fragmentation, and I support efforts to resolve these issues. Unfortunately, recent efforts in Saudi Arabia involving the Government of Yemen and southern militia groups do not appear to have made progress.

Ireland has raised concerns about the situation in Yemen in our bilateral contacts with a number of third states which are involved in the conflict there, including Saudi Arabia and UAE, and also Iran. In these contacts, we have emphasised the need for an end to human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, and for full and unfettered humanitarian access. Most recently, for example, my officials raised our concerns about the situation in Yemen with the Saudi Ambassador in Ireland, during a meeting held last week.

Illicit and irresponsible arms flows fuel violence and organised crime, terrorism and conflicts, thwarting sustainable development and crisis management efforts. Ireland does not have our own independent sources of information on illicit arms flows to non-state actors in Yemen, but we support international efforts to tackle and monitor illicit arms flows, through our support for the effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, the 2018 EU Strategy on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the EU sponsored iTrace project. All EU member states have signed up to the Arms Trade Treaty, which exists to ensure that arms sales do not fuel conflicts, and to prevent arms from falling into the hands of non-state actors.

Those countries which do have arms industries have a particular responsibility to ensure that arms do not ultimately fall into the wrong hands. If arms sold to Saudi Arabia have fallen into the hands of terrorists or non-state actors, obviously this would be a matter of deep concern.

Ireland takes every opportunity to press for a political solution to the crisis in Yemen, and for an end to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and for unfettered humanitarian access to Yemen. Since 2012, Ireland has provided over €22 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen, including a contribution of €5 million this year. Ireland will continue to do what we can to assist the political and humanitarian effort in Yemen, through supporting the efforts of the UN, as well as advocating for an end to the conflict in our bilateral contacts.

Middle East Peace Process

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 47.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 54.

Ceisteanna (58)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

58. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when Ireland will officially recognise the state of Palestine in view of the recent statements of the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, that he will permanently seize additional territory in the West Bank; the reason for the delay in doing so in view of the unanimous passing of a motion by Dáil Éireann on 10 December 2014 requesting the Government to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37459/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Programme for Government states that Ireland will “honour our commitment to recognise the State of Palestine as part of a lasting settlement of the conflict.” Successive Governments have seen recognition coming in the context of an overall peace agreement.

However, in the context of widespread frustration at the lack of political progress towards an agreement, and not least in light of the views expressed by the Dáil and the Seanad in 2014, we have discussed here in the Oireachtas on a number of occasions the question of whether the formal recognition of Palestine, in advance of its full achievement on the ground, would be a helpful step in advancing a resolution of the Israel- Palestine conflict.

I have also regularly discussed the issue with EU partners and with leaders in the region, including with President Abbas during his visit to Ireland in September of last year.

One of the many factors bearing on this question is the importance of assessing whether recognition now would positively affect the peace process or merely be viewed as a symbolic gesture, swiftly overtaken and surpassed by events on the ground. Recognition by Ireland will also undoubtedly affect Ireland’s ongoing influence on the Middle East Peace Process at EU and international level, and it is imperative that it does not diminish Ireland’s impact without delivering a commensurate benefit for the Palestinian people.

I have stated that I will be ready to recommend immediate recognition of the State of Palestine to the Government, if and when I believe it would be helpful in achieving our objective of a free and sovereign Palestinian State, or advancing the peace process in that direction. I have not yet concluded that it would be helpful at this time, but situations change, and I keep this matter under continuous and active review.

Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter. The EU has reiterated, on numerous occasions, that it will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. With regard to the comments which Prime Minister Netanyahu made last week about the Jordan Valley, I would not usually comment on what is said in the course of an election campaign. However, due to the gravity of the issue in this case, I felt it was important to make my views known. I also directed my officials to speak to the Israeli Ambassador and to request that he convey Ireland’s position directly to his authorities. Ireland and the EU will monitor closely the actions of the next Israeli Government.

Ireland remains fully committed to the resolution of the Middle East conflict, through an agreed settlement which includes the establishment of a sovereign State of Palestine recognized by all, living side by side in peace with the State of Israel, bringing to an end to the occupation that began in 1967. All of my actions on this issue are taken in pursuit of that objective.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 47.
Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 54.

Human Rights Cases

Ceisteanna (61)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

61. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a lawsuit (details supplied) in Colombia has been filed by two communities in La Guajira, four national NGOs and three members of the National Congress of Colombia; if the case is being tracked by his Department in view of its connection in Ireland; and if the ESB has been briefed by his Department on the case in view of the fact it buys significant amounts of coal from the mine and the commitments of his Department regarding the National Plan on Business and Human Rights 2017-2020. [37240/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am aware of the matter to which the Deputy refers, and of the issues that have been raised regarding the Cerrejón mine by environmental and indigenous rights activists in La Guajira. I remain concerned at reports of the activities of the mine having a detrimental impact on the environment and on local communities.

As I have stated previously, matters related to the ESB fall under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. However, as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have written to the ESB requesting further information on this issue, which I will be happy to share once received.

Officials at my Department in Dublin and at our Embassy in Bogotá have been monitoring this situation closely and engaging with relevant stakeholders. Officials have met with representatives of the mine and have discussed the human rights issues that have been raised by civil society groups in the area. Officials have also discussed the situation with partner organisations in Colombia involved in monitoring human rights in the area, and intend to visit La Guajira, where the mine is located, in the near future.

The relationship between business and human rights is fundamental to securing a society that works for all citizens, and this is a priority for me and my Department. In November 2017, my Department launched the National Plan on Business and Human Rights 2017 -2020 to give effect to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The aim of the Plan is to promote responsible business practices at home and overseas by all Irish business enterprises in line with Ireland’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights globally. The Plan is directed at Government and State agencies, Irish companies operating at home and overseas, and multinational enterprises operating in Ireland.

The establishment of the Business and Human Rights Implementation Group was a key commitment of the National Plan. The Implementation Group, established in December 2018, is mandated to meet at least twice per year. I was pleased to be able to participate in the inaugural meeting of the Group on 16 January 2019. The Implementation Group went on to hold its first working meeting on 3 April 2019 and is scheduled to meet again in October.

My Department and I will continue to monitor this situation closely and engage with relevant stakeholders on the important issues raised by civil society groups regarding the mine.

Irish Aid

Ceisteanna (62)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

62. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which he can ensure that disability inclusive development will be realised within the international development policy of Irish Aid and that persons with disability will be a key priority within the development policy. [37368/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Government’s new policy for international development, A Better World, sets out the framework for delivering Ireland's development programme. That policy sets out how through that programme Ireland will help deliver on the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs require Ireland to help ensure that no one is left behind: this includes those with disabilities.

To help deliver on the SDGs promise to leave no one behind, Ireland's international development programme works with a wide range of civil society, bilateral and multilateral organisations active in the areas of health, education and human rights to improve the lives of people living with disabilities. In addition, Ireland advocates for the needs and rights of people with disabilities through policy engagement in the EU, and with the UN and other international bodies.

In delivering A Better World, Ireland will continue to mainstream disability across our international development programmes and policies, complementing this work with support for disability-specific interventions, with particular emphasis on women and girls with disabilities.

Northern Ireland

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 45.

Ceisteanna (63)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

63. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of efforts to restart the executive in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37462/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The continuing absence of the power-sharing Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland and the North South Ministerial Council is of grave concern for the Government as it is for the British Government.

I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland throughout the latest talks process, to encourage the parties to reach an accommodation. I continued this engagement over the summer months and I remain in regular and ongoing contact with Secretary of State Smith (we met most recently yesterday), to work to secure agreement between the parties to get all of the institutions of the Agreement up and running again.

All five political parties have engaged constructively in the talks process with that objective over the last number of months. Progress has been made across a range of important issues. However, some key outstanding issues remain and finding final agreement on these issues will require genuine and courageous dialogue and leadership by the party leaders in Northern Ireland.

The awful murder of Lyra McKee and the outpouring of public feeling that followed demands a serious response at political level. People want the devolved power-sharing institutions up and running again to represent their interests and deal with the issues and challenges that Northern Ireland faces at present, not least the difficulties raised by the UK exit from the European Union. The functioning of the North South Ministerial Council is also urgently required, to bring together the Executive and the Government to oversee and develop co-operation on the island, and as a vital part of the Good Friday Agreement.

In this context, the political parties, in particular the two largest parties, must live up to their responsibilities and be open to fair and workable compromises on the small number of outstanding issues, to secure the overall interests of people in Northern Ireland and to protect and operate the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement again.

This will be difficult, but the two Governments believe that this can, and must, be achieved. Accordingly, the Government will continue to do everything possible to support continuing engagement and progress in discussions between the political parties, working with the UK Government in any scenario, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 45.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (65)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

65. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the ongoing political crisis and human rights violations in Bahrain; the position of Ireland on the crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37370/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The human rights situation in Bahrain remains a matter of concern. Citizens in Bahrain are living in an increasingly restrictive society and there has been further erosion of fundamental freedoms in recent years, including freedom of opinion and expression.

I was alarmed to learn of the executions of three people in July, including two human rights activists. 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. Respect for human rights is an integral part of Ireland’s foreign policy, and we condemn the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. Along with our EU partners, Ireland calls on Bahrain to again introduce a moratorium on executions, as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Through our interventions at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Ireland has sought to ensure that the human rights situation in Bahrain, and in other locations where we have concerns, remains in focus. Ireland has repeatedly raised human rights concerns in Bahrain at the HRC in recent Item 4 Statements ("human rights situations that require the Council’s attention"). 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, and in February 2019, we reiterated that concern at the ongoing detention of human rights defenders. At the last HRC session in June/July 2019, Ireland called on Bahrain to ensure respect for freedom of opinion and expression and the right to a fair trial. At the most recent HRC Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain's human rights record in 2017, Ireland urged Bahrain to accept an open offer by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Bahrain.

We have also raised the issues of human rights in Bahrain in bilateral dialogue; for example, officials from my Department met with officials from the Bahraini Embassy in March 2019 and raised our human rights concerns directly with them.

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, as opportunities arise.

UN Security Council

Ceisteanna (66)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

66. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of Ireland’s efforts to win a seat at the UN Security Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37463/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The expected date of the election for the two available seats in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) for the UN Security Council term 2021-2022 is approximately nine months away.

The campaign is a priority across the whole of Government. The UN is central to Ireland’s foreign policy. Our effort to secure a seat, which was announced in 2005, reflects this. I am particularly conscious that we are seeking a seat on the Council at a time when multilateralism is being undermined. It is my strong belief that, in these circumstances, it is important that Ireland should demonstrate its willingness to participate in the work of multilateral institutions. I know this view is widely shared in the Oireachtas.

All appropriate regional, multilateral and bilateral engagements are being utilised by An Taoiseach; me, as Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade; Ministers across Government and by Ministers of State, to promote and discuss Ireland’s candidature. Officials at my Department are also fully engaged in the effort to ensure success. Ireland last served on the Council from 2001-2002.

In making our case to the 192 other Members States of the UN, we are highlighting our consistent record at the UN throughout more than six decades of active membership. We have a strong record at the UN in the areas of peacekeeping, sustainable development, humanitarian action, disarmament and human rights.

The case for our candidature echoes our policy interests, our values and our history of positive engagement at the global level. We are committed to the principles and values of the UN Charter which have stood the test of time for 74 years and we will demonstrate this commitment if we are elected to the Council.

The contest for the two seats is very competitive. Our opponents, Canada and Norway, are strong members of the UN and important bilateral partners. We enjoy excellent relations with both and cooperate on many issues at the UN and beyond. Indeed, my Norwegian counterpart visited Ireland just last month and I had the opportunity to meet with her to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest.

Later this month I will travel to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly with the President, and the Taoiseach. The UN is organising five Summits in as many days, addressing Climate, Financing for Development, Health, Small Island Developing States and the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to participating in the Summits, we will take the opportunity to raise the profile of our Security Council candidature with Member States. We aim to meet senior representatives of a wide range of States to press our case and seek their support at the election which is expected to take place in June 2020. In addition to those bilateral meetings, the President, Taoiseach and I will participate in events that showcase Ireland's principled and consistent foreign policy on issues such as the Middle East Peace Process, disarmament and the importance of multilateralism. Our programmes will, of course, include a number of events with important bilateral and Irish community dimensions.

Brexit Negotiations

Ceisteanna (67)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

67. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has spoken with Mr. Michel Barnier recently; and if there is a European Council meeting in September 2019. [37642/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Throughout the Article 50 process I, as well as officials from my Department, have had frequent and ongoing contact with representatives from other EU27 Member States, the Commission and the Article 50 Task Force headed by Michel Barnier.

I spoke with Mr Barnier by phone on Monday (16 September), ahead of President Juncker’s meeting with Prime Minister Johnson. As in my most recent meeting with Mr Barnier in Brussels on 19 July, we took stock of the ongoing talks between the EU and the UK. The EU's strong solidarity with Ireland and its absolute commitment, notwithstanding the ongoing political impasse in the UK, to protect the Good Friday Agreement remains clear.

While we welcome the intensification of discussions between the European Commission and the UK, it is the UK's responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement. At this point, no such proposals have yet been made, and it is important that the UK communicate their concrete ideas to the Commission on how they intend to deliver an orderly withdrawal.

I plan to meet Mr Barnier again shortly, and senior officials from my Department and the Department of the Taoiseach continue to engage with the Task Force on a regular basis.

A meeting of the General Affairs Council on 16 September was attended by Minister McEntee and a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council will take place on 14 October, which I will attend. While Brexit is not formally on the agenda for these Councils, the meetings will provide a further opportunity to discuss issues relating to Brexit and other issues of mutual concern with our partners.

The next meeting of the European Council will take place on 17-18 October.