Discussions with European Leaders

Ceisteanna (68)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

68. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken with Ms Ursula von der Leyen since her ratification as President of the European Commission. [34764/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I spoke with Ursula von der Leyen on 12 July to congratulate her on her nomination by the European Council for President of the European Commission.

I also wrote to her on 31 July nominating Phil Hogan for a second term as Ireland's member of the European Commission

I look forward to working with her during her term in office to advance the Strategic Agenda adopted by the European Council in June to guide the work of the Institutions over the next five years.

Cyber Security Protocols

Ceisteanna (69)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

69. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach if there are dedicated, professionally trained and certified cybersecurity staff for cybersecurity protocols under the remit of his Department; if such specialists are being recruited; if his Department maintains a risk register of security breaches; and if so, if there are staff that analyse, log and maintain such a register. [36412/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

There are no staff assigned to my Department who are dedicated solely to ‘cyber security protocols’ and there are no immediate plans to recruit such a specialist.

One element of the Head of ICT’s role in my Department is ‘Implementing technologies relevant to the security and protection of data within the Department’s ICT Systems and Infrastructure ’. This is done in conjunction with the core ICT team assigned to the Department which includes a Cyber Security Responder who is currently seconded to my Department from the National Cyber Security Centre. The remit of my Department's ICT team is significantly broader than the area of cyber security.

As necessitated by particular projects, the core ICT team is often supplemented with external resources who have specialised expertise in the rapidly evolving and expanding field of cyber security and information security.

A Risk Register of potential attempts at security breaches is maintained and if deemed necessary by the core ICT team, can be made available to the National Cyber Security Centre or to my Department’s external partners for further inspection and action.

My Department works closely with and has ongoing contact with the Computer Security Incident Response Team in the National Cyber Security Centre who provide regular guidance and advice relating to current internet security alerts and threats. Prevention and mitigation measures recommended by the Response Team are reviewed as soon as they are received and they are appropriately actioned.

The response to cyber threats continues to be a whole-of-Government challenge with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment leading on the development of a new National Cyber Security Strategy. A public consultation took place recently on the development of the new Strategy which will seek to take account of heightened threats, new responsibilities, and the need to develop new skills and wider engagement internationally.

Departmental Administrative Arrangements

Ceisteanna (70)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

70. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach if his Department has a disaster recovery plan, business continuity plan and or disaster recovery sites. [36413/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The Department of the Taoiseach has as a Business Continuity Plan, which is kept under review.

Departmental Internships

Ceisteanna (71)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

71. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach 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; and if his Department continues to offer unpaid internships. [36415/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

My Department does not have an internship programme and has not offered or granted any unpaid internship positions over the past five years to 28 August 2019. During this period, a small number of students were facilitated with placements in my Department as part of their studies.

Departmental Websites

Ceisteanna (72)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

72. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Taoiseach the reason links from search engines or other sources to documents found on the website of his Department now link to a Department home page rather than the document itself; his plans to rectify the situation; and the advice taken before the change was implemented. [36418/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

Government Department websites are currently undergoing a significant change in how they present online content to citizens and businesses, with a view to making them easier to use and more accessible to citizens. Over time, Department websites are being moved to one single website, gov.ie, giving people a one stop shop for accessing information on Government services and organisations.

It is generally seen as best practice to pursue the consolidation of public service information into one consistent accessible website.

The most digitally advanced countries within the EU (see the EU eGovernment Benchmark 2018 - Denmark, Estonia, Austria, Latvia and Malta), have already moved to a single digital gateway approach. Furthermore, a 2016 market research exercise carried out by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform found that the concept of a single, online portal for government was positively received by both the general public and representative bodies alike. This view was again confirmed by a subsequent market research exercise carried out in late 2018.

Following a government decision in December 2017 to migrate all Ministerial Department websites to gov.ie, work has proceeded on this basis.

So far, 5 departments have moved their website content to gov.ie - the Departments of the Taoiseach; Public Expenditure and Reform; Rural and Community Development; Transport, Tourism and Sport; and Finance.

As a part of the migration to gov.ie, content from websites is reworked and moved into the gov.ie website (for example, efforts are made to make the services content easier to understand through the use of plain English). Post migration, the internet addresses for the new content within gov.ie is different from the addresses of the content, including documents, on the old websites.

The migration of a website to a new one with a different address necessarily breaks links to the old website content from external sources. This happens in all website migrations, including the department websites in question. This issue is temporary in nature as search engines re-index content on the internet, and also as external sites (that are not search indexes) update their links to point to the new location of content.

Over time, the issue of finding broken links and being redirected to a department’s homepage on gov.ie will become less and less frequent, and will eventually cease to occur.

To reduce the temporary impact of the website migrations, the occurrence of visitors to broken links within gov.ie is monitored via site analytics. In conjunction with each department’s content manager, work is continuously being undertaken where possible to redirect such broken links to the correct and new location within gov.ie. Furthermore, prior to website migration into gov.ie, work is undertaken to pre-emptively set up such redirects to popular content so as to reduce the likelihood of this issue arising.

Between search engine re-indexing and the ongoing efforts based on website analytics, the user experience of gov.ie in regards to the matter the Deputy refers will improve over time.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (73)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

73. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach the amount expended on the renewal of licences (details supplied) by his Department since 2009 to date in 2019; and the amount projected to be spent on the renewal of such licences by his Department over the next five years. [36419/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

IBM Notes, known as Lotus Notes prior to 2012, is used in the Department of the Taoiseach and is appropriately licensed. Although some of the core functionality associated with IBM Notes has been migrated to more modern alternatives, IBM Notes continues to be an important business application which is used throughout the Department on a daily basis.

Email, calendaring and some other functions are no longer provided by IBM Notes. Other functions will be replaced over time but are contingent on the availability of appropriate alternatives such as the Financial Management Shared Services Project.

Since 2009, my Department has paid a total of €145,170.23 for IBM Notes (formerly Lotus Notes) licences. Licences for IBM Notes are on a ‘Per User’ basis and are procured through a competitive procurement process.

In the last ten years, 3 different companies have been successful in the various procurement processes undertaken for IBM Notes licences.

Although subject to further procurement processes, it is anticipated that over the coming years that the annual expenditure in relation to IBM Notes licences will be broadly similar to previous years.

However, the IBM Notes product was acquired by HCL Technologies at the end of June 2019 and there is a possibility that the licensing model may change during that transition.

Full details of costs associated with IBM Notes licences from 2009 to date in 2019 are provided in the table below and all costs are provided inclusive of VAT.

Licensing Year

Order Date

Procured From

Cost

2009

17 Dec 2008

System Dynamics Ltd.

€16,971.73

2010

30 Nov 2009

System Dynamics Ltd.

€9,780.75

2011

06 Dec 2010

Triangle Computer Services Ltd.

€13,075.80

2012

07 Dec 2011

System Dynamics Ltd.

€14,002.01

2013

20 Nov 2012

System Dynamics Ltd.

€18,010.83

2014

21 Dec 2013

System Dynamics Ltd.

€14,393.98

2015

11 Dec 2014

System Dynamics Ltd.

€9,587.53

2016

15 Dec 2015

System Dynamics Ltd.

€10,548.36

2017

14 Dec 2016

Triangle Computer Services Ltd.

€11,567.04

2018

24 Nov 2017

Domino People Ltd.

€12,755.96

2019

02 Jan 2019

Domino People Ltd.

€14,476.24

Ministerial Advisers Data

Ceisteanna (74)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

74. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Taoiseach the name of each person employed as an adviser or special adviser to him and the Minister of State in his Department; and the salary of each in tabular form. [36420/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The list of advisers employed by my Department, as outlined in the following table, comprises those working with me, those in Government Press Secretary roles, advisers working with the Independent Alliance and Independent Ministers and advisers to the Government Chief Whip.

Name

Role

Salary Scale

Brian Murphy 

Chief of Staff

Deputy Secretary

John Carroll

Head of Policy and Programme Implementation 

Assistant Secretary

Patrick Geoghegan

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach 

Assistant Secretary (equivalent)

Angela Flanagan

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach 

Principal Officer

Philip O'Callaghan

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach

Principal Officer

Clare Mungovan 

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach

Principal Officer

Jim D'Arcy

Special Adviser to the Taoiseach

Assistant Principal (Higher)

Nick Miller 

Government Press Secretary

Assistant Secretary

Sarah Meade 

Assistant Government Press Secretary

Principal Officer

Catherine Halloran

Deputy Government Press Secretary

Principal Officer

Name

Role

Salary Scale

Peter Feeney

Special Adviser to the Government Chief Whip

Principal Officer

Peter Harper

Special Adviser to the Government Chief Whip

Principal Officer

Name

Role

Salary Scale

Tony Williams 

Chief Strategist for the Independent Alliance 

Principal Officer

Donal Geoghegan

Political Coordinator for Independent Ministers 

Principal Officer

The Special Advisers working in my office provide briefings and advice on a wide range of policy matters, as well as performing other functions as I may direct from time to time. They also liaise with other Special Advisers in each Government Department so that I am informed on developments across Government.

The Government Press Secretary acts as a spokesperson for me, as Taoiseach, and the Government and is assisted by the Assistant Government Press Secretary in coordinating the media relations of all Government Departments.

The Deputy Government Press Secretary - who is also based in my Department - coordinates communications for all the Independents in Government.

Special Advisers working with Minister of State Helen McEntee and Minister of State Paul Kehoe are employed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Defence respectively.

Consultancy Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (75)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

75. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach 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; and the cost expended on the external advice and training of same to date in tabular form. [36421/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the names of the companies/consultancies that have delivered advice and training on the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to staff in the Department of the Taoiseach since 2016 and the costs of same are set out as requested, in the following table.

Year

Course/Conference

Provider

Cost

(inc VAT where applicable)

2016

Privacy and Data Protection Conference

(2 participants)

Irish Centre for European Law

€ 320.00

2016

Data Protection Training

(14 participants)

DCM learning

€ 695.00

2016

International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP)

- Training (1 participant)

International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP)

€ 665.50

2016

IAPP Training Courses

(including annual IAPP membership for 2 persons)

IAPP

€3,485.00

2016

Annual Data Protection

Compliance Conference

PDP Conferences

€1,009.00

2017

Privacy and Data Protection Conference

(2 participants)

Irish Centre for European Law

€ 320.00

2017

Preparing for GDPR

(1 participant)

Commercial Media Group (CMG)

€ 448.90

2017

Preparing for GDPR

(1 participant)

CMG

€ 448.90

2017

GDPR for State Bodies – Training

(1 participant)

CMG

€ 365.00

2018

GDPR Compliance Course

(2 participants)

Legal Island Ltd

€1,217.70

2018

GDPR Training Course

(1 participant)

Sureskills Ltd

€ 395.00

2018

National GDPR Conference

(2 participants)

CMG

€ 971.70

2018

Preparing for GDPR DPO training

(1 participant)

CMG

€ 375.00

2018

GDPR and Media Relations

(1 participant)

Media hq

€ 50.00

2018

GDPR/FOI training

(1 participant)

CMG

€ 395.00

2018

DPO official training 5-days

(1 participant)

IACT

€ 888.00

2019

Customised e-training course in GDPR for Department Staff to take on their PCs

- All Grades included

Colleary & Co.

€8,118.00

2019

Data Privacy Conference

(1 participant)

CMG

€ 485.95

Total to date

€20,653.65

Departmental Customer Charters

Ceisteanna (76)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

76. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach the number of complaints his Department received under the customer service charter in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; and if his attention has been drawn to issues and or problems in having complaints registered. [36423/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

Ten customer service complaints have been received in my Department since 2017. Five complaints were received in 2017, four complaints were received during 2018 and one complaint has been received to date in 2019. I am not aware of any issues with the registration of complaints in my Department.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (77)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

77. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken with Prime Minister Johnson recently; and if so, the issues discussed. [36953/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I held a positive and constructive meeting with Prime Minister Johnson in Government Buildings on Monday 9 September. Discussions focused largely on the UK’s departure from the EU, recognising of course, that negotiations take place through the Brussels Task Force. We agreed that we both want to see an agreement between the European Union and the UK. While discussions were at an early stage, common ground was established in some areas although significant gaps remain.

We also discussed Northern Ireland and our shared commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland and we looked forward to meeting again in the near future.

I have also spoken twice by phone with the Prime Minister when we discussed the ongoing political talks in Northern Ireland and Brexit.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (78)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

78. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the US Vice President, Mr. Pence, and the issues discussed. [36954/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I met the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, on Tuesday 3 September. The Vice President was on an official visit to Ireland, marking the latest in a series of high-level visits by representatives of the US Government this year, including President Trump and Speaker Pelosi.

I was pleased to host the Vice President, the Second Lady and other family members for a lunch, which was largely social in nature.

The Vice President and I, accompanied by officials, then held a bilateral meeting at which we discussed several issues of mutual interest including US-Ireland bilateral relations, including economic relations; Brexit, including its potential impacts on this island; developments relating to Northern Ireland; and immigration issues. We also discussed international trade, including the prospect for an EU-US trade agreement.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (79)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

79. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has met or spoken with Ms Arlene Foster recently; and if so, the issues discussed. [36955/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I met DUP Leader Arlene Foster when we both attended the funeral of Ms Lyra McKee in Belfast in April. I also met with her in Washington in March during my visit for St Patricks Day.

I expect to meet her again soon.

The Government is in ongoing contact with the Northern Ireland parties, both through the work undertaken by the Tánaiste to progress the restoration of the NI institutions and also at official level.

Citizens Assembly

Ceisteanna (80)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

80. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach when he plans to convene a citizens' assembly to discuss the provision of a directly elected mayor for Dublin. [35633/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

At its meeting on the 11 June 2019, the Government agreed to the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality and noted that a further Citizens Assembly would subsequently be established to consider the best model of local government for Dublin and, in particular but not exclusively, the issue of a directly elected mayor and his or her powers.

The Government agreed that these Assemblies would run consecutively commencing with the Assembly on gender equality and that the work programme for this Assembly should be constructed so that consideration of the topic can be completed within six-months where possible. The preparatory work is underway to establish the Citizens Assembly on gender with a view to a first meeting as soon as possible. The Dublin Citizens Assembly will be the subject of a further Memorandum to Government in due course in the context of progress on the Citizens Assembly on gender equality.

Employment Data

Ceisteanna (81)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

81. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Taoiseach the number and percentage of persons in employment compared to 2011 and 2016 in counties Longford and Westmeath. [35136/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available.

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a household survey which provides quarterly statistics on employment and unemployment and is the official source of labour market estimates in the State. The primary classification used for the LFS results is the ILO (International Labour Office) labour force classification.

The definition of “In Employment” is persons who worked in the week before the survey for one hour or more for payment or profit, including work on the family farm or business and all persons who had a job but were not at work because of illness, holidays etc. in the week.

The employment rate (ILO) is the number of employed persons aged 15-64 expressed as a percentage of the total population aged 15 to 64.

The most recent figures available from the LFS are for the second quarter (Q2) of 2019.

The quarterly LFS labour market estimates are produced by NUTS3 Regions (NUTS3 is regional classification) Due to the methodology and sample size of the survey it is not possible to produce reliable county estimates from the LFS.

The NUTS 3 Midland region includes counties Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath.

Table 1 shows the population, persons in employment and employment rate classified by NUTS 3 Midland region in Q2 2011, Q2 2016 and Q2 2019.

Table 1 Population, persons in employment (ILO) and employment rate classified by NUTS3 Midland region Q2 2011, Q2 2016 and Q2 2019

Q2

2011

Q2

2016

Q2

2019

Population:

Persons aged 15-64 years ('000)

185.8

188.2

195.1

In Employment:

Persons 15 years and over ('000)

101.9

111.7

127.5

of which:

Persons aged 15 to 64 years ('000)

99.6

108.7

122.8

Employment rate %:

Persons aged 15-64

53.6

57.7

62.9

Source: Labour Force Survey (LFS), Central Statistics Office, Ireland.

Data may be subject to future revision.

Data may be subject to sampling or other survey errors, which are greater in respect of smaller values or estimates of change.

Reference period:Q2 Apr-Jun.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Ceisteanna (82)

Michael Harty

Ceist:

82. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Taoiseach the number of times Cabinet committee E (Health) has met in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [35099/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The Cabinet Committee on Health met on six occasions in 2016: on 12 May, 16 June, 21 July, 22 September, 7 November and 13 December.

In 2017, it met on 11 January, 2 February, 21 March, 27 April and 30 May. It met twice more in 2017 as Cabinet Committee E (Health) on 12 September and 23 November.

Cabinet Committee E met twice in 2018 - on 11 April and 22 November.

Following a Government decision in July, the Cabinet Committee structures were reorganised. Health is now covered by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Services, which met for the first time on 10 September 2019. Sláintecare and Scheduled and Unscheduled Care were discussed at this meeting.

In addition to meetings of the full Cabinet and of Cabinet Committees, I often meet with Ministers on an individual basis to focus on particular issues. In this regard, I meet regularly with Minister Harris to discuss issues relating to our health service.

Jobs Data

Ceisteanna (83)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

83. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach the number and proportion of jobless households on a percentage basis; and the corresponding EU number and average rate. [36850/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available.

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a household survey which provides quarterly statistics on employment and unemployment and is the official source of labour market estimates in the State.

The quarterly LFS results include the following jobless household indicators. The indicator "Proportion of persons aged 0 - 17 years living in jobless households" is calculated as the share of persons aged 0 - 17 years who are living in households where no one is in employment.

The indicator "Proportion of persons aged 18 - 59 years living in jobless households" is calculated as the share of persons aged 18 - 59 years who are living in households where no one is in employment.

The indicator "Proportion of persons aged 0 - 59 years living in jobless households" is calculated as the share of persons aged 0 - 59 years who are living in households where no one is in employment.

Students aged 18 - 24 years who live in households composed solely of students (persons who have indicated that their Principal Economic Status is Student) of the same age class are not included in the jobless household indicators for those aged 18 – 59 years and 0 – 59 years.

The most recent annual figures available from the LFS for comparison against European results (EU 28) are for the year 2018.

Table 1 shows the LFS jobless household indicators for Ireland classified by age group and the latest corresponding EU 28 data for 2018.

Table 1 LFS jobless household indicators, Ireland and EU 28, 2018 1 (annual average)

Proportion of persons aged 0-17 years in jobless households

2018 1

Ireland

11.4%

EU 28

9.4%

Proportion of persons aged 18-59 years in jobless households

Ireland

9.4%

EU 28

9.0%

Proportion of persons aged 0-59 years in jobless households

Ireland

10.0%

EU 28

n/a

Source: Labour Force Survey (LFS), Central Statistics Office, Ireland and Eurostat.

1 Calculated as average of four quarters.

Data may be subject to future revision.

Data may be subject to sampling or other survey errors, which are greater in respect of smaller values or estimates of change.

Reference period: January - December (annual average).

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (84)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

84. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the criteria used in the appointment of members of the public to interview boards dealing with positions in the Defence Forces; if there is a geographical representation on such interview boards; if preference is given to applicants based or living in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37339/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Civilians are appointed by the Minister, on the recommendation of the Public Appointments Service, to positions on interview boards for the purpose of assessing and recommending Defence Forces personnel for promotion. Geographical representation is not a factor in the appointments.

Air Corps Strength

Ceisteanna (85)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

85. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of vacancies for technicians at airman rank in the Air Corps; the number of technicians in the Air Corps in training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37366/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The military authorities have advised that there are currently 76 vacancies for Aircraft Technicians at Airman rank. There are 35 apprentice technicians currently in training with further inductions expected in October 2019.

The recent report of the Public Service Pay Commission examined recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces made a series of recommendations. The recommendations on increases to MSA, the reintroduction of a service commitment scheme for pilots in the Air Corps and changes to duty allowances and are being considered by the Defence Forces Representative Associations. Work is also ongoing to implement other recommendations in the Report, including a review of technical pay.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (86)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

86. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a new recruitment campaign for the Defence Forces will start before the end of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37367/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

General Service recruitment to the Permanent Defence Force is now open for applications all year round following the campaign launch in March 2019. In July 2019, a further awareness exercise was conducted in the media and it is intended that awareness/recruitment stands will be in place at upcoming high profile national events such as the Ploughing Championship and the Irish Times Higher Options expo in the RDS.   

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (87)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

87. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the projected increase in the gross capital expenditure ceiling applying to his Department in 2020 over 2019; and the projects this increase has been earmarked for. [37454/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Mid-Year Expenditure Report (MYER) for 2019 sets out the baseline position in relation to gross Voted expenditure ceilings. The MYER makes provision for a capital expenditure allocation of €113 million for Defence in 2020, in accordance with the National Development Plan. This represents an increase of €7 million on the corresponding 2019 allocation.

The National Development Plan provides an overall capital expenditure allocation of €541 million for Defence for the period from 2018-2022. This level of capital funding will allow Defence to continue its programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development, as identified and prioritised in the White Paper on Defence.

Defence Forces Pensions

Ceisteanna (88)

Mick Barry

Ceist:

88. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a commitment can be made to continue to provide funding for the medication of a person (details supplied) who is on an Army disability pension. [37725/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Army Pensions Acts 1923-1980 provide for the grant of pensions and gratuities to former members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) in respect of permanent disablement due to a wound or injury attributable to military service (whether at home or abroad) or due to disease attributable to or aggravated by overseas service with the United Nations.

Section 25 of the Army Pensions Act, 1927 provides that the Minister may defray the cost of any medical examination or treatment undergone by direction of the Minister, where the grant of pension has not yet been made final.

The cost of the medication for the person in question was covered by my Department under this provision of the Acts while they were in receipt of a temporary disability pension. However, once their pension was made final the provision no longer applied therefore the individual was informed in writing of the position and given time to make alternative arrangements.

There are no provisions under the Army Pensions Acts or otherwise for my Department to continue funding the medication in this case.

The person in question may wish to contact their local health office to see if any assistance can be given with regard to his medication.

Good Friday Agreement

Ceisteanna (89)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

89. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department has examined or commissioned a cost profile of the likely costs of a united Ireland. [36416/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The full implementation and effective operation of the Good Friday Agreement is a priority for the Government.

The principle of consent and the possibility of change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland are fundamental elements of the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by the people of this island North and South.

The approach of the Government in relation to Irish unity is of course guided by Article 3 of the Constitution, as amended by the people in 1998. 

Under the Agreement, the two Governments firstly “recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Britain or a sovereign united Ireland”.

Secondly, the two Governments “recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right to self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland”.

In the event that, “in the future, the people of the island of Ireland exercise their right of self–determination on the basis set out…above to bring about a united Ireland, it will be a binding obligation on both Governments to introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish”.

The holding of a referendum in this jurisdiction is connected with the calling of a border poll, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, in Northern Ireland. Under the Good Friday Agreement, the Secretary of State shall exercise this power "if at any time it appears likely ... that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland."

While the decision to hold such a poll in Northern Ireland rests with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Government does not believe it likely at present that such a border poll in the near future would result in a decision on the part of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland in favour of constitutional change.

In these circumstances, it is the Government’s clear view that such a poll would only increase uncertainty and division at an already difficult and sensitive time.

The Government respects everyone’s right on this island to make the case for the constitutional future they wish to see for Northern Ireland - whether nationalist, unionist or neither. The Good Friday Agreement - and the two sovereign Governments - explicitly recognise and validate the legitimacy of both of these constitutional positions, which are deeply held.

In the absence of the prospect of a referendum in the near future, the Government has no immediate plans for specific preparations on this issue, nor has there been in the past. This includes the commissioning or formal examination by my Department of a profile of the potential costs of a United Ireland. My Department is aware of the academic and other research papers on the subject which have been published.

In the event of a future referendum within the consent provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government would make all necessary preparations in accordance with the terms of the Constitution and the principles and procedures of the Agreement.

The Government’s immediate priorities are to secure the functioning of the devolved power-sharing institutions and the North South Ministerial Council, which are at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, and to ensure the protection of the Agreement in all its parts and the gains of the Peace Process, in the context of the UK decision to exit the European Union under any scenario.

Discussions with European Leaders

Ceisteanna (90)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

90. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has spoken to his EU counterparts recently regarding Brexit. [36956/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I continue to have frequent and ongoing contact with representatives from other EU Member States and the European Commission on a range of EU issues including Brexit.

Over the last few weeks, I have held bilateral meetings with the Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, and Foreign Minister, Tomáš Petrícek, in Prague; the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, and Minister for European Affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, in Paris; and the Danish Foreign Minister, Jeppe Kofod, in Copenhagen. I also met again with the Polish Foreign Minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, in Warsaw, while attending events to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.   The informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Helsinki on 29-30 August also provided an opportunity to engage with my EU counterparts, including German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

It is clear from each of these meetings that solidarity for the EU’s approach to Brexit remains strong and that our partners continue to understand the unique position Ireland finds itself in.

I have also met with members of the new UK Government, including UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Stephen Barclay, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove.  These meetings provided an opportunity to reiterate that the EU remains open to working constructively with any UK proposals so long as they are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement, and that the EU is open to reworking the Political Declaration, within the bounds of European Council guidelines.  It is up to the UK to provide specific, realistic proposals, that provide the same protections as the backstop, that is protecting the GFA,  avoiding a hard border, including related checks and controls, preserving the all-island economy, and the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it. 

Arms Trade

Ceisteanna (91)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

91. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland will join the 29 countries calling for a prohibition on fully autonomous weapons, including the ban in participating, supporting the development of and-or manufacturing or trading such lethal autonomous weapons also known as LAWS before a robotic arms race ensues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36975/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland has a clear, long-standing policy of promoting effective multilateral cooperation, the rule of law and good global governance. We consider it an imperative to seek multilateral solutions to global challenges and threats to international peace and security, including those arising from new technological developments and advancements.

Ireland regards the area of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) as one of the most pressing issues facing the disarmament agenda.  Their development and deployment raises serious ethical, moral and legal questions, with the possibility of contravening International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, reshaping modern warfare, and exacerbating asymmetries of power between States. We believe that there is an urgent need for tangible international responses to address these challenges.

The principal multilateral space for addressing these challenges is the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on LAWS.  This is a UN body that operates by consensus.  While conscious of the difficulties in achieving consensus within the Group, Ireland believes that progress can continue to be made there and we remain committed to achieving a consensus outcome at this stage.  We welcome the outcome of the most recent GGE meeting in August 2019, whereby States agreed to endorse a set of Guiding Principles and decided to continue work for an additional two years.  The decision to extend these discussions reflects the fact that States believe further progress can be achieved within the context of the GGE. Working to achieve consensus within the UN system remains the most effective way to comprehensively address the emerging challenges posed by LAWS.  The GGE is relevant and representative because it encompasses 125 countries, including those countries most likely to develop these new weapon systems.

In the short term, we see a political declaration on LAWS as the outcome most likely to secure agreement.  We also see value in developing an internationally-agreed legal instrument designed to ensure human control over autonomous weapon systems.  While a number of States have called for a pre-emptive ban, we do not see a consensus emerging in the GGE around calls for a pre-emptive ban at this stage.  We have continuously reiterated that the GGE needs, as a matter of urgency, to make substantive progress in order to ensure that technological developments do not outpace the international community’s ability to regulate these weapons.

Ireland also recognises the valuable contribution of civil society in these on-going discussions. We have funded and partnered with civil society to facilitate informal discussions among States and civil society to allow a better understanding of the commonalities that exist between States on this complex issue. We look forward to continuing our engagement with civil society in the future on this important topic.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (92)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

92. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the increased use of violence in Derry recently, particularly the acts against the PSNI; and if he has discussed same with his UK counterpart. [37435/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

There has been a worrying increase in the number and tempo of dissident republican attacks  in Derry and other parts of Northern Ireland. In the past ten days, the PSNI have recovered two bombs which they have attributed to the 'New IRA' and which they believe were intended to kill PSNI officers. During the search operation to retrieve the second bomb, in the Creggan area of Derry, the PSNI came under sustained attack from missiles and petrol bombs thrown by young people thought to be directed by older New IRA elements. In the previous week, there were also three paramilitary style attacks which have resulted in six people being injured.  

Let me reiterate, there is no place and no possible justification for the use or the threat of violence on this island.  The people of this island endorsed the Good Friday Agreement making clear that the only way to change the constitutional status of Northern Ireland is by peaceful and democratic means and through consent.  I call again on those engaged in violence to cease now, your actions are repugnant to the people of this island and are counter-productive to the vision you wrongly claim to represent.

This level of violence is entirely unacceptable and causes untold disruption and anxiety within communities. The people of the Derry City and Strabane District have been unequivocal in their condemnation of this violence and local politicians have been consistent in urging those responsible to get off the backs of the local communities.

My officials are in regular contact with local political and community representatives as well as the PSNI and will continue this engagement during this period of increased tension.  

I am in regular contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith MP, and I met with him on Monday 16 September, as did my colleague the Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan. Both Governments are acutely aware that the current political vacuum is creating a situation which sinister elements such at the New IRA are seeking to exploit. We are continuing to work together on efforts to restore a functioning Executive and Assembly which will bring much needed stability for dealing with these types of threats.