Ministerial Functions

Ceisteanna (76)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

76. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his role and responsibilities regarding the Defence Forces. [37644/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Defence (Delegation of Ministerial Functions) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 299 of 2017) was approved by Government on 5 July 2017 and came into effect on that date. Pursuant to the Order, statutory responsibility for a wide range of Defence matters has been delegated to me. The principal responsibilities delegated include powers to make Regulations under various provisions of the Defence Acts 1954 to 2015 and powers in respect of personnel-related issues affecting members of the Defence Forces.

As well as specifying the powers that have been delegated, the Order also specifies the Ministerial powers and responsibilities arising under these enactments that have not been delegated. These are as follows:

- the power conferred under the enactments specified in the Order to prosecute an offence;

- powers arising under sections 11, 17, 87 and 88 of the Defence Act 1954.

Defence Forces Strength

Ceisteanna (77)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

77. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he and his officials are concerned regarding the depletion of the number of members of the Defence Forces. [37690/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I have previously acknowledged that there are recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces. This is reflective of the current buoyant economic environment and jobs market. I brought these issues to the attention of the Public Service Pay Commission who recently produced their report. 

The Commission’s recommendations have been accepted by Government and an implementation plan has been published. This is being progressed as a matter of priority. The Government remains committed to restoring the Permanent Defence to a strength of 9,500 personnel.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (78)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

78. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the plans being prepared by his Department to recruit additional Army personnel should they be necessary to patrol additional Border posts in a post-Brexit scenario. [37868/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Government is committed to a PDF strength of 9,500 personnel in order to undertake the roles set out in the White Paper on Defence (2015).

In this context the Defence Forces continues to implement its recruitment plan, targeting General Service Recruits, Cadets and specialists for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.

Defence Forces Data

Ceisteanna (79)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

79. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Army personnel serving at Custume Barracks, Athlone. [37869/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The establishment of the Permanent Defence Force is 9,500 personnel. The military authorities have informed me that the establishment for Units based in Custume Barracks is approximately 995 personnel.

Military service entails personnel moving into and out of particular postings and as they serve at home and overseas, receive training and undergo educational and career development courses.  Accordingly, there is a constant through-flow of personnel into and out of barracks, including Custume Barracks.

Defence Forces Retirements

Ceisteanna (80)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

80. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to ensure changes to the current regulations are made which would allow retiring Army personnel to take up roles within other State organisations for which they have suitable qualifications (details supplied). [37870/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I am unaware of any restrictions in Defence Forces regulations such as those described by the Deputy. I would appreciate if the Deputy would furnish me with specific details of his concerns. 

Defence Forces Pensions

Ceisteanna (81)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

81. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if changes will be made to the Army pension system which would allow retired personnel to work in more financially rewarding roles (details supplied). [37871/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The issue raised by the Deputy relates to the operation of Section 52 of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and other Provisions) Act 2012.

 

This provides that where a retired public servant who is in receipt of a public service retirement pension resumes employment anywhere in the public service on or after 1 November 2012, their pension is liable to abatement, that is, cessation or reduction as appropriate. The measure applies across the public service, including the Defence Forces. However, it does not apply in relation to employment with the commercial semi-State bodies or where public service pensioners are employed outside the public service.

Pension abatement in the public service is structured to ensure that a pensioner's combined earnings from their current public service job plus their existing public service retirement pension, does not exceed the current equivalent of pensionable salary from their old public service job. Depending on those variables, the actual impact (if any) from the measure on a person’s public service pension will vary from person to person.  For example, where a person’s combined public service earnings from their current job plus pension are less than the current equivalent of their pensionable earnings from their old job e.g. in the Defence Forces, there is no reduction of pension.

I should point out that prior to 1 November 2012, this abatement principle / concept already operated as a standard feature of public service pension schemes generally.  However, this was only within individual sectors and bodies where a public service pensioner resumed working in his or her former occupation, e.g. Defence Forces, Garda, Civil Service etc. The 2012 Act extends the principle across and between all sectors without exception, thereby restoring the arrangements that were in place until 1965.

I should also state that a public service pensioner already in public service employment immediately before 1 November 2012 is not affected by the change while he or she remains in that post/position. However, if their employment status changes after that date, for example, where they secure a new post through promotion with their current public service employer or where they move to a different post or public service body, their pension is subject to abatement in accordance with the legislation.

The Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and other Provisions) Act 2012 comes under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and the question of any changes to that Act would therefore be a matter for him in the first instance.

UN Security Council

Ceisteanna (82)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

82. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the securing of a UN Security Council seat; and if he has spoken to other foreign ministers regarding same. [37691/19]

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.

Passport Applications Refusals

Ceisteanna (83)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

83. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the basis for refusing to issue a passport renewal in respect of a person (details supplied); the instances in which a person must produce a public services card in order to obtain a passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37777/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Since March 29 2016, the Passport Service has required all first time passport applicants, aged 18 and above, who are resident in Ireland to submit a copy of their Public Services Card (PSC) with their passport application. This requirement also applies to adult applicants whose most recent passport has expired more than five years previously and to adult applicants whose passport was issued before 1 January 2006 and has been reported as lost, stolen or damaged.  

The application referred to was registered with the Passport Service in March of this year. The Passport Service did not issue a passport to the applicant on the grounds that the applicant declined to submit a copy of their PSC, which was required for the applicant's specific category of application. The basis for rejecting an application where a PSC is required and not submitted is Sections 6 and 7 the Passports Act, 2008 (as amended) and section 263(3) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005.

The Passport Service is aware of the Data Protection Commission’s concerns on matters pertaining to the PSC. I have directed the Passport Service to undertake a review of documents required for first time adult passport applicants with specific reference to the requirement to submit a copy of their PSC as part of their application.

The Passport Service will continue to accept a copy of an applicant’s PSC as valid identification for first time adult applications and other applicable categories of application. Where the applicant does not present their PSC, an application can proceed if an applicant either presents original Government-issued photographic identification, such as a driver’s licence or a passport from another country, or attends for interview in person at the Passport Offices in Cork or Dublin.

Passport Service staff will contact the applicant directly.

Foreign Policy

Ceisteanna (84, 85)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

84. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions he and his EU foreign minister colleagues are taking with regard to repression of the independence movement in West Papua; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37904/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

85. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has raised the issue of autonomy or independence for West Papua with the European Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers and at the General Assembly of the United Nations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37905/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 85 together.

Ireland, together with our EU partners, respects the territorial integrity of Indonesia and regards the province of West Papua as being part of Indonesia. 

I am concerned by the escalation in violence since August in both Papua and West Papua. While access to information has been somewhat constrained, including by restrictions on the use of internet, reports of violence in the region and the deaths of both protesters and security forces personnel are especially disturbing.

I welcome efforts locally and by the Indonesian Government to find a peaceful, inclusive and lasting solution, including through the proposal for further and deepened dialogue with civil society. 

Officials in my Department, including in our Embassy in Jakarta, will continue to closely monitor the situation in West Papua and will liaise with our international partners on this issue as appropriate.

Human Rights Cases

Ceisteanna (86)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

86. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he and his EU colleagues are taking to request the extradition to the International Criminal Court in the Hague of the alleged killers of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37906/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I remain deeply concerned about the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi almost one year ago. In the days and weeks that followed his death, disturbing information came to light that points unequivocally to the fact that Mr Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by agents of the Saudi State.

In January 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions announced that she would initiate a human rights inquiry, under the terms of her mandate, into the unlawful death of Mr. Khashoggi. The report by Agnes Callamard was published in June. Ms Callamard found that Mr Khashoggi was the victim of a premeditated extrajudicial execution, for which the State of Saudi Arabia is responsible.

The report was discussed during an Interactive Dialogue with Ms Callamard at the Human Rights Council on Wednesday 26 June. An EU statement thanked Ms Callamard for her report, condemned the killing, reiterated that those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held to account, and again called for ‘prompt; effective and thorough; independent and impartial; and transparent investigations’. The statement called upon Saudi Arabia to disclose all information available and to fully cooperate with all investigations into the killing.

Ireland also made a national statement at the dialogue, emphasising the importance of the protection of journalists and media workers, and joined calls that those responsible for the killing must be held to account. Officials from my Department have continued to raise our concerns about this case directly with Saudi officials - most recently with the Saudi Ambassador in Ireland last week - and to press for a transparent legal process. 

In her report Ms Callamard called for the Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council or the UN Secretary-General to conduct an international follow-up criminal investigation for the purpose of determining individual liability and identifying options towards judicial accountability. The call by UN Special Rapporteur will need to be considered in these fora.

 Ireland fully supports a follow up investigation by the Human Rights Council, as called for by Ms Callamard. The Special Rapporteur did not identify the ICC as among the next steps to be considered at this stage. Recourse to the International Criminal Court is only possible in certain circumstances and for specific types of crimes.

Ireland is a strong and unequivocal supporter of a free press. As a global community, protecting journalists and media workers must be an essential component of our efforts to protect and promote freedom of expression.

EU Sanctions

Ceisteanna (87)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

87. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will request his EU counterparts to consider introducing sanctions against the current Saudi Arabian regime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37907/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I have been clear in this House on my concerns about human rights within Saudi Arabia – including the use of the death penalty, and the situation of human rights defenders. I have expressed deep concerns, in this House, in multilateral fora, and directly to Saudi officials, about the way in which the war in Yemen is conducted, by all parties. My Department has also consistently highlighted these concerns in our bilateral contacts with a number of third states which are involved in the conflict, including Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran.

We have emphasised the need for an end to human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, and for full and unfettered humanitarian and commercial access. Most recently, my officials raised our concerns about the situation in Yemen with the Saudi Ambassador, in a meeting last week. 

The promotion of human rights is a key element in Irish and EU foreign policy, and there are of course many states around the world in relation to which Ireland and the EU have human rights concerns. In addressing these, we need to tailor the different approaches available to us to different contexts, according to what is most likely to be effective.

Restrictive measures or 'sanctions' are one potential tool of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Care needs to be taken to avoid counterproductive impacts of sanctions, including due to the potential they have to isolate the target country from the kinds of interactions where diverse views are expressed, and minds changed. In most cases, public and private diplomacy is the preferred approach.

There have previously been calls in this house for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia in light of that country’s involvement in the war in Yemen. Some, though not all, of the EU Member States which have arms industries have decided to halt arms exports to countries involved in the Yemen conflict. Although EU consensus on a full EU arms embargo does not currently exist, all EU Member States have signed and ratified the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty.

The Treaty exists to ensure that arms sales do not fuel conflicts, lead to serious violations of international human rights law, or allow arms to fall into the hands of non-state actors or terrorists. It is often more effective to press for the implementation of commitments already made, reminding partners of what they have agreed to, rather than seeking agreement on new measures. Ireland’s efforts are concentrated on ensuring the effective implementation of the Treaty.

Brexit Negotiations

Ceisteanna (88)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

88. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when he was last briefed on the ongoing Brexit discussions between the EU and the UK. [37645/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My officials and I remain in close contact with the European Commission and Taskforce members on Brexit matters.

Together with EU partners, we are regularly briefed by the Commission regarding ongoing talks between the EU and the UK on Brexit.

Talks between Task Force and the UK’s Chief Negotiator David Frost have been ongoing since the end of July, becoming more frequent since the end of August.

In his recent address to the European Parliament Conference of Presidents on 12 September, Mr Barnier said that the EU is willing to consider any proposals from the United Kingdom which are workable and compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement, but that ‘ball is clearly in the United Kingdom’s court’.  The European Commission is yet to receive concrete written proposals that are legally operational from the UK Government.

Mr Barnier has made clear that the EU remains firm on the need to avoid a physical border on the island of Ireland, the preservation of the integrity of the Single Market and the protection of North-South cooperation and the all-island economy, all of which are essential elements for peace and stability in Ireland.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (89)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

89. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when talks will resume with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Julian Smith, and with the political parties in Stormont in relation to the need to have the political institutions in Northern Ireland restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37944/19]

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, meeting most recently earlier this week, 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.

Irish Fiscal Advisory Council Reports

Ceisteanna (90)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

90. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if he and his officials have received the most recent Irish Fiscal Advisory Council report with its comments on a disorderly Brexit. [37689/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I can confirm that I have received a copy of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council’s Pre-Budget 2020 Statement, as published on Wednesday, 11th September. I have reviewed the Statement, along with my officials, and would make the following observations.

Firstly, I would welcome the Council’s assessment that Government revenues continue to perform well this year to date. With tax receipts to end-August in line with expectations and showing year-on-year growth of 8.1%, it looks likely that our Budget 2019 target of €57.9 billion will be achieved.

I also note the Council’s concerns around a ‘hard Brexit’ and in line with this view, last week I secured Government agreement to base Budget 2020 on this same assumption, that of a no-deal Brexit. In fact, given the uncertainty and lack of clarity regarding the timing and format that the U.K.’s exit will take, preparing for a no-deal scenario is the most sensible approach. This, I believe, will help us to ensure that we safeguard our recent hard won progress in stabilising the public finances.

In addition, it is important that we avoid a situation whereby decisions are made this year that may need to be reversed in the future. By assuming a ‘no-deal Brexit’, we can ensure that the Government has the necessary resources at its disposal to meet the impact of this exceptional challenge; whilst also preserving the longer-term sustainability of the public finances.

Finally, it is important to give certainty to businesses and citizens that the Government is prepared for a ‘no-deal Brexit’ and stands ready to support the economy in such a scenario.

Indeed, by continuing to balance our books, reduce our debt burden and build up the Rainy Day Fund, we are improving our resilience to the risks posed by Brexit and other risks that a small open economy such as ours faces.

Property Tax Exemptions

Ceisteanna (91)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

91. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Finance the situations in which a householder with a house that has pyrite will be given an exemption from property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37856/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The pyrite exemption is intended to apply to those properties that have a significant level of pyrite damage. This means that not all properties that are affected by pyrite are eligible for the exemption. Under the relevant legislation, a  property that has been damaged by pyrite is eligible for the LPT exemption where any one of the following conditions is met:

1. A certificate of damage has been completed by a competent person,

2. It has been accepted into the pyrite remediation scheme operated by the Pyrite Resolution Board,

3. An insurance company has remedied it or provided sufficient funds to carry out the remediation, or

4. The builder who built the property has remediated it or provided sufficient funds to carry out the remediation.

Property owners claiming the exemption under 1. above must provide a certificate to Revenue, which is completed in accordance with  I.S. 398-1.2013 as set down by the then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in Statutory Instrument (SI) No 147 of 2013. Property owners claiming the exemption under 2. to 4.  above must provide appropriate supporting documentation.

Once granted, the exemption becomes applicable from the following 1 November and normally remains in place for a period of six years. The Finance (Local Property tax) Act 2012 (as amended) does not provide entitlement to the exemption for any years previous to a property being accepted as having significant pyritic damage, or in circumstances where the pyritic damage was remediated prior to the introduction of LPT on 1 July 2013.

However, usually the presence of pyrite, whether it has already caused structural damage to a property or has the potential to cause such damage, will have a negative effect on the market value of the property. This may result in a reduced LPT liability for the affected property, depending on the chargeable value that was declared for the property for LPT purposes on the current valuation date of 1 May 2013.

Property Tax Exemptions

Ceisteanna (92)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

92. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Finance the number of householders originally given an exemption from the property tax and-or household charge but that subsequently had the exemption withdrawn retrospectively and were forced to repay the property tax and household charge previously foregone; the amount collected in these retrospective repayments; if he is satisfied that such householders were treated fairly in the application of criteria for the retrospective withdrawal of the exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37857/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I am advised by Revenue that Local Property Tax (LPT) exemptions are claimed on a self-assessment basis meaning that the onus is on property owners to correctly claim exemptions in accordance with the legislation as set down in the Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 (as amended) (LPT Act).

In respect of the household charge (HHC), this was governed by the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 which provided for certain exemptions and waivers. The criteria for these differed to the exemptions available for LPT. Property owners were obliged to submit claims and HHC waivers/exemptions were granted or refused by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) or the relevant Local Authorities. Revenue became responsible for the collection of HHC arrears, with effect from July 2013, but did not take on responsibility for the administration of exemptions or waivers. Data in respect of exemptions/waivers granted/refused is available from the Local Government Management Agency. 

The number of exemptions fluctuate for a variety of reasons, including the receipt of new claims, the termination of existing exemptions or the amendment of claims. The latest statistics up to the end of July 2019, indicate that in excess of 49,100 exemptions are in place (including 1,700 in respect of significant pyrite damage) for the year 2019, broken down as per the following table:

Exemption

Total 2019 (Rounded)

Charitable Bodies (recreational activities)

200

Charitable bodies (special needs accommodation)

8,200

Certain properties purchased between 1/1/2013 and 31/12/2013

11,500

Properties fully chargeable to commercial rates

2,400

Properties vacated because of long-term mental / physical infirmity

7,600

Mobile homes

300

Registered nursing homes

300

Significant pyrite damage

1,700

Residence of severely incapacitated individual

2,000

Unfinished housing estates

3,310

Trading stock of builder / developer (unsold at 1/5/2013 or sold in the period 1/1/2013 to 31/10/2019

11,600

Total

49,110

As part of its compliance programme, Revenue carries out ongoing verification checks to ensure the various LPT exemptions are correctly claimed. Revenue is obliged to ensure that all property owners meet their LPT obligations and must make sure that compliant taxpayers are not disadvantaged. An exemption is only withdrawn where it has been claimed incorrectly and the property does not satisfy the specific exemption criteria. 

I am advised by Revenue that it is not possible at this time to state the number of exemptions that have been withdrawn retrospectively as a result of compliance interventions but I will revert to the Deputy with additional statistical information.

As I am sure you'll appreciate taxpayer confidentiality prevents Revenue from providing personal information in each circumstance and as such I cannot comment on the details of individual cases. 

Revenue is aware that the payment of outstanding arrears in certain circumstances could cause financial difficulties and for this reason, has confirmed that it is willing to work with anyone in such a situation, to agree a mutually satisfactory arrangement.

Tax Code

Ceisteanna (93)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

93. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the review of SARP has been completed and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37884/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

In accordance with the Department of Finance Tax Expenditure Guidelines, SARP is currently the subject of an independent review, carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants. The review exercise affords an opportunity to look at all elements of the relief and it also includes consultation with stakeholders.  

I understand that the report is currently being finalised and I expect that it will be submitted to me shortly. I hope to publish the report in the context of the forthcoming Budget and Finance Bill.

Motor Tax Rates

Ceisteanna (94, 95)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

94. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance his plans to ensure that detailed consideration is given to the submission of a society (details supplied) for budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37915/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

95. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance his plans to ensure that no registration taxation changes in 2020 will increase the price of cleaner, safer cars and new cars in view of the potential of a disorderly Brexit, the decline in the past three years in new car purchases and the increasing level of imports of second-hand vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37916/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 95 together.

My officials give due consideration to submissions made in the context of the Budget. 

As the Deputy will be aware, it is a long-standing practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment, in advance of the Budget, on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Departmental Circulars

Ceisteanna (96)

John McGuinness

Ceist:

96. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will explain the rationale relative to circular 15/2016 from his Department on the subject of superannuation benefits; if there is an outcome as yet to the clarification promised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37903/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

Circular 15/2016 was issued by my Department on 27 April 2016 to give guidance on the operation of Section 52 subsections (6) and (7) of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and other Provisions) Act 2012, which imposes a limit, or ‘benefit cap’, on the total amount of pension benefits that can accrue where an individual has been a member of more than one public service pension scheme.

Subject to a number of conditions, Circular 15/2016 provided that public servants subject to the benefit cap could choose the ‘most financially beneficial combination of service’ across the various pension schemes of which they were a member. This meant that, where it could be reasonably facilitated, an employer processing a retirement application might allow a retiree to forego less valuable pension service so that more valuable service (within the overall allowable limit) might be availed of. Where a pension had already come into payment, the member would make an appropriate recoupment to the relevant pension scheme.

As a result of a number of issues that have arisen in relation to the benefit cap and implementation of Circular 15/2016, my Department has carried out a review into the operation of those provisions. As part of the review, further legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General has been sought. Once that advice has been received, new/revised guidance will be developed and issued as appropriate.  At that stage, public service employers and pension administrators will be in a position to consider the implications for the pension entitlements of affected individuals under their pension schemes, and to communicate with those individuals accordingly.

Flood Prevention Measures

Ceisteanna (97, 98)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

97. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the cause of the serious flooding which occurred recently at Coonagh on the counties Limerick and Clare border and the delay in the schedule of works by the OPW will be investigated; the reason an inadequate temporary barrier was erected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37760/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

98. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps being taken to address the impact of serious flooding issues at Coonagh on the counties Limerick and Clare border; the role the OPW will be taking in addressing the significant damage caused to services, facilities and sporting facilities in the locality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37763/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 98 together.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) undertakes routine inspections of all of its flood defences along the Shannon estuary.

During a routine inspection by OPW staff on the River Shannon Flood Defence Embankment system, damage to sluice outfall/embankment was noticed. The function of the sluice outfall allows the discharge of water from the area protected by the embankment to the estuary, and during high tides prevents tidal waters in the estuary backing up in to the protected area.

While repair works had started in mid-August, due to forecast high tides emergency repairs works were carried out on Friday 30th and Saturday 31st August. Unfortunately, these temporary works failed and water breached the embankments.

The OPW has now reconstructed an embankment at the breached area for the short term and is currently considering options for the construction of a permanent structure for the long term.

The OPW acknowledges that in trying to repair the damage to the sluice, the temporary structures did not initially provide the level of protection provided by the embankments and did lead to flooding in the area.

The OPW were in contact with the local authority over the weekend in question and sandbags were provided to the affected houses. Several pumps were also deployed to the area.

In relation to the five houses directly affected, four families were evacuated to a nearby hotel over the weekend of Saturday 31st August and Sunday 1st September. The OPW has met with and written to these homeowners and apologised for the damage to their house and contents caused by this exceptional situation.

The OPW has engaged a loss adjuster to help establish the quantum of costs in restoring the houses and contents affected to their pre flooding position. The loss adjuster visited these five houses on Thursday 5th September. The OPW has advised the homeowners that while this is an independent assessment, the OPW appreciates that some homeowners have engaged their own loss assessor and the OPW will cover the cost for that service.

The OPW will fund the costs of alternative accommodation, if needed, for the duration of restoration works.

The loss adjuster has also visited the sporting facilities affected and is working to establish the quantum of costs involved in restoring these facilities to their pre flooding position.

I visited the area on Sunday 1st September and met with those affected and I am anxious that an early resolution for all those directly affected by this flood event is found without delay.

I want to take this opportunity to again thank the affected homeowners for their ongoing co-operation.

Home Tuition Scheme

Ceisteanna (99, 100, 119)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

99. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications outstanding for home tuition grants as at 13 September 2019. [37773/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

100. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications received to date for the 2019/2020 school term for home tuition grants. [37774/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

119. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date on which home tuition will commence in September 2019; the number of children who will receive home tuition in September 2019; the number of teachers who are in place to provide same; the number of vacancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37885/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 99, 100 and 119 together.

The Home Tuition Grant schemes application forms and related Circular were published on 8th August 2019 this year. Last year, the forms and circular were published on 26th July 2018.

The scheme provides funding towards a compensatory educational service for children with special educational needs seeking an educational placement for whom such a placement is not available. The scheme also provides for early intervention for children with Autism.

Where the NCSE confirms that there is no suitable school place available for a child, the Department can provide Home Tuition Grant funding towards a compensatory educational service for the child until a school placement is available.

By its nature, the grant is intended to be a short term intervention and should not be regarded as an optional alternative to a school placement.

Applications forms are signed by the NCSE local SENO to confirm that no school placement is currently available for a child. SENOs are processing home tuition applications as a matter of urgency.

It is an essential condition for the approval of grant funding that tutors engaged by Parents are registered with the Teaching Council of Ireland and vetted by the National Vetting Bureau via the Teaching Council of Ireland’s on-line vetting process, prior to the commencement of the delivery of tuition.

The Department has no flexibility in this regard and cannot approve the Home Tuition grant until it verifies that these conditions are met.

The same conditions apply whether Parents use the grant to engage tutors to deliver tuition in their home or private providers to deliver tuition in a group setting.

The Home Tuition Application form outlines that it may take the Department up to 15 working days to process home tuition applications.

The Department is prioritising the processing of Home Tuition applications with a view to processing completed applications within 7 working days.

My Department also provides a Home Tuition Grant Scheme for students, enrolled in schools, with significant medical conditions, which has caused, and is likely to continue to cause, major disruption to their attendance at school for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school.