Questions Nos. 1 to 13, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 14 to 39, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 40 to 50, inclusive, answered orally.

Middle East Issues

Ceisteanna (51)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

51. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has discussed the attempts by Israel to brand support for Palestine as anti-Semitic with his European counterparts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46487/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland strongly condemns all manifestations of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, and we take the fight against anti-Semitism very seriously. Ireland is a signatory of the Stockholm Declaration of the International Forum on the Holocaust, and is a member of the Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. In December 2018, all 28 EU Member States adopted a Council Declaration on the fight against anti-Semitism, and the development of a common security approach to better protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe.

Support for the Palestinian people, or criticism of the Israeli occupation, is not something that can or should be equated with anti-Semitism. Successive Governments in Ireland and globally, and public representatives, NGOs and individuals, have voiced strong criticisms of Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory. I have done so myself. It is to be expected that any country which is engaged in a military occupation of another people will be subject to a particularly high level of scrutiny. Criticisms of the occupation are not based on anti-Semitism or hostility to Israel, but on consistently applied values of respect for justice, human rights and the rule of law. There are of course many Israelis who criticise Israel’s occupation policies.

Criticism of Israeli Government policy is not in itself anti-Semitic, and to conflate these things is unjust, counter-productive, and potentially damaging. Conflating valid criticism of Israeli actions with anti-Semitic attitudes, risks unfairly stigmatising people who are motivated by a desire for justice for the Palestinians, and blunting the reflex of horror we should all have at real manifestations of anti-Semitism. Conversely, I also believe it is wrong when criticism of Israeli Government actions conflates the Jewish people – globally or in Ireland – with the Government of Israel.

EU leaders must be vigilant against anti-Semitism, given our continent’s history. We consider Israel a partner. That has never prevented us criticising actions by the Israeli Government, particularly in relation to the occupation, rooting our criticism in values which we pursue consistently and globally.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (52)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

52. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to attacks by Turkey on civilians in northern Syria (details supplied); and if his Department is providing humanitarian assistance in the area. [46429/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland is deeply troubled by Turkey’s unilateral military action in Syria, which has severely destabilised the region. I am particularly concerned about the humanitarian impact of the action and the further displacements of civilian populations that have been and continue to occur as a result.

The Turkish incursion has had severe consequences for civilian infrastructure, and hospitals and medical facilities in north-eastern Syria have been severely affected. Ireland’s primary concern is the safety and well-being of civilians. All parties to the conflict must ensure respect for the principles of international humanitarian law and to allow full access for humanitarian workers.

I am concerned by reports of alleged use of white phosphorus weapons by Turkish-aligned forces. While incendiary weapons, including white phosphorus, are not considered under international law to be chemical weapons, they are prohibited for use against civilian populations under Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Ireland condemns any such use in the strongest possible terms and calls on all States who have not already done so to accede to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and to all of its Protocols.

Ireland is a strong and consistent donor to the Syria crisis response. In March 2019, Ireland pledged a further €25 million to the crisis, bringing our total amount of humanitarian assistance to over €143 million since 2012 – our largest ever response to any single crisis.

Ireland is working with existing partners on the ground in north-east Syria and other areas to provide humanitarian support based on immediate needs. In the last month we have made two payments to projects in areas that have received the highest proportion of displaced persons. One of these areas is in northeast Syria, and another in Iraq, to which over 14,000 Syrians have fled. These projects supplement support already being provided by Ireland through our UN and NGO partners in the region.

Emigrant Support Services

Ceisteanna (53)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

53. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the implementation of the recommendations in the report on addressing barriers faced by returning Irish emigrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46381/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Indecon Economic Report on Addressing Challenges Faced by Returning Irish Emigrants made thirty recommendations. These covered a wide range of Government activities, including housing; registration of driving licences; easing access to motor insurance; information on, and access to, employment opportunities in Ireland; improving the recognition of academic and professional qualifications; access to the Irish banking and mortgage markets; health insurance; information on childcare costs; availability of school places; the introduction of a means-test grant for the children of Irish emigrants and investment by development agencies to support returnees. Twenty of these have been addressed. Of the remaining 10 areas, 8 have been partially addressed or are pending further policy development. Two recommendations were not accepted.

Among the recommendations that have been addressed most recently is the development of a single-window information service for returning Irish emigrants. This service, which was initially developed by my Department, is now operated by the Citizens Information Board with support from my Department. Discussions between my Department and the Citizen's Information Board about further strengthening this resource and targeting the information provided more closely to the identified needs of returnees are currently underway. We know from data provided by the Board that this service draws high levels of individual user attention, underlining the importance of this resource to returning citizens, as well as their family networks in Ireland, allowing returning Irish emigrants to plan more effectively for their move back home.

Another programme which my Department has put in place is the Back for Business programme, which is now entering its third year, which supports enterpreneurship among returning emigrants. This has been very successful and was launched yesterday with the support of Minister of State Cannon.

The Interdepartmental Committee on the Irish Abroad, at its meeting in November 2019, reviewed progress made to date in addressing the recommendations contained in the Indecon Report. Minister of State Cannon, who chaired the meeting, noted that some concerns remain to be addressed. A report of the progress made to date will be submitted to the Government shortly.

UN Security Council

Ceisteanna (54, 60)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

54. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council. [43228/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

60. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of efforts to obtain a seat at the UN Security Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46434/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

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

The expected date of the election for the two available seats in the Western European and Others Groupfor the UN Security Council term 2021-2022 is approximately seven months away, in June 2020. Canada and Norway, who are committed members of the UN and important bilateral partners of Ireland, are also contending for a seat. The campaign is a priority across the whole of Government and we wish to ensure success in what is a very competitive election. Ireland last served on the Council from 2001-2002.

In making our case to the 192 other Members States of the UN, we are focusing on Ireland’s consistent record at the UN throughout more than six decades of active membership, in particular in the areas of peacekeeping, sustainable development, humanitarian action, disarmament and human rights. More broadly, we have sought to highlight the values and principles that underpin Ireland’s foreign policy and will characterise our contribution to the work of the Security Council. It is also important to note that, in our efforts to secure a seat on the Security Council, we are demonstrating commitment to the multilateral system at a time when it is under pressure.

In September, I travelled to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly with the President, the Taoiseach and other members of the Government. Ireland was represented at a high level at the five Summits that took place – on Climate Action, Financing for Development, Health, Small Island Developing States and the Sustainable Development Goals. Our contributions in these and other fora during the week sought to highlight Ireland’s key policy priorities at the UN. In addition, a significant number of bilateral meetings were held with senior representatives of other States and Governments, where our strong case for a seat on the Security Council was pressed.

As we enter the final phase of the campaign, we are intensifying our efforts to promote our candidature. 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 Ministers of State. In addition, officials at my Department, and also across Government, continue to make an important contribution to raising the profile of our campaign among international partners.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (55)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

55. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to increased attacks on indigenous communities in Colombia, particularly in the province of Cauca; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that on 29 October 2019 five members of the Nasa Tacueyó indigenous community were killed, including a person (details supplied); if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that before the massacre the United Nations reported that 52 indigenous community members had been murdered in north Cauca to date in 2019; and if he has raised the issue with his Colombian counterpart. [46428/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland is a committed supporter of human rights defenders, open civil society space and the protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms. I am aware of the recent events in Cauca province, which unfortunately act as a reminder of the challenges that Colombia is facing as it implements the peace agreement.

The absence of the State in former conflict areas following the demobilisation of the FARC, including in the Cauca province, has resulted in other armed groups gaining control of these areas, primarily to control the illegal economy. This has implications for the security of the local communities, particularly for human rights defenders and community leaders, as witnessed in Cauca.

Our new resident Embassy in Bogotá has been engaging with civil society, EU and multilateral partners on the human rights situation in the country, since it opened at the beginning of the year. We also regularly raise this issue in our exchanges with the Colombian Government.

Earlier this year, former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, in his position as EU Special Envoy to the Colombian peace process, a role in which he is supported by my Department, led the 11th session of the EU-Colombia Human Rights Dialogue. Particular reference was made to the disproportionately high level of violence against indigenous leaders, and the need for collective protection measures.

Ireland supports the Colombian Government’s full implementation of the peace agreement. The peace process is fundamental to improving the human rights situation in the country and Ireland has contributed over €14 million in support of this since 2007, mainly channelled through the United Nations, and Colombian and international NGOs focusing on human rights, conflict prevention, peace-building and supporting livelihoods for rural populations.

As well as financial support, Ireland has also provided ongoing support in the form of lesson-sharing based on our own experience of peacebuilding and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. We also participate in the EU’s ongoing campaign to recognise and champion the work of human rights defenders in the country.

Officials in my Department in Dublin and at our Embassy in Bogotá will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Cauca and across Colombia, as Ireland continues to support Colombia in its transition to a stable, peaceful, post-conflict society.

Human Rights Cases

Ceisteanna (56)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

56. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps he is taking to secure the release of political prisoners in Bahrain; if he has met with Bahraini officials in regard to the issue; if so, if he will report on the meetings; and his views on the reported refusal of adequate medical care to high profile prisoners. [45810/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The human rights situation in Bahrain remains a matter of concern. Although Bahrain has stated its commitment to improving its human rights record and safeguarding human rights as enshrined in the Bahraini Constitution. Progress has been made in certain areas, but there continue to be instances of violations of fundamental freedoms there including the targeting of human rights defenders.

Officials from my Department also regularly meet with advocacy groups and Bahraini human rights defenders, and they have been made aware of reports that medical care has been denied to political prisoners in Bahrain. Ireland urges all States to safeguard the human rights of prisoners and detainees, including the right to healthcare, as set out in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Mandela rules.

My Department and I have raised these issues with Bahrain. When I met the Bahraini Foreign Minister in New York in September I made a point of raising the human rights situation directly with him, with a view to having open and honest discussion on these issues.

Officials from my Department last week met with a delegation from Bahrain and had an in-depth discussion on prison conditions and the justice system in Bahrain. Among the issues raised were Ireland’s concerns about the imprisonment of certain individuals, apparently on the basis of opinions they had expressed; and the provision of healthcare for prisoners in Bahrain. The Bahraini officials outlined specific plans to improve prisoners’ access to healthcare. My officials will continue to follow up on this matter.

The EU and Bahrain hold regular discussions on human rights issues. At the most recent informal EU-Bahrain Human Rights dialogue on 7 November 2019, issues discussed included the right to a fair trial, prison conditions (including the need to ensure adequate medical treatment for prisoners) and the overall human rights situation in the country. Ireland has also highlighted human rights issues in Bahrain at the UN Human Rights Council, in the form of national statements and its support to EU Statements.

My Department will continue to monitor developments in Bahrain, and to urge the Bahraini Government to deliver on its stated commitment to make progress in relation to human rights.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (57)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

57. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the specific measures in the public relations campaign that started on 4 September 2019 on national and local radio on Brexit preparation aimed at County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46457/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Government-wide ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ public information campaign was launched on 20 September 2018.

In the initial phase of this campaign, my Department organised “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready” public information events in Cork, Galway, Monaghan, Dublin, Limerick and Donegal throughout autumn 2018 to inform and advise citizens and businesses about Brexit preparedness and the range of support measures and resources that the Government has put in place. These events brought together over a dozen Agencies and their parent Departments – the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport - under one roof and were attended by approximately 2,500 people over the October-November period.

In the lead up to the March and April Brexit deadlines this year, my Department is working closely with the Department of the Taoiseach and other Government Departments initiated a Brexit preparedness public information campaign. This campaign ran to ensure that key audiences were aware of the potential impact of a No Deal Brexit and the mitigation measures that they could take, with the support of Government where appropriate and with particular reference to the gov.ie/Brexit website. This national and local campaign activity was across TV, radio, print, internet and social media.

Building on the ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ roadshows and the broad ranging information campaign in advance of the March and April Brexit deadlines, I along with Minister Heather Humphries and Minister Helen McEntee launched a ‘Getting Your Business Brexit Ready – Practical Steps’ campaign in September. This campaign informed businesses and consumers on the practical steps that all businesses should take to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU. Central to this campaign is a user-friendly digital booklet, which provides a comprehensive overview for businesses on the core steps they should take, and it can be accessed at gov.ie/Brexit.

In addition to this booklet, a two week national and local radio campaign urged businesses to take action and review readiness under 9 key areas. This campaign targeted businesses and other affected sectors and encouraged them to take the necessary steps to mitigate the risk in advance of the Brexit deadline of 31 October 2019. This ad campaign was followed by a further citizen awareness public information campaign which ran on national and local radio in the first two weeks of October. In Cork County the radio advertisements were carried on Cork’s 96FM and C103.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (58)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

58. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he raised concerns with the authorities in Northern Ireland in relation to the level of stop and search incidents and surveillance by the police of persons from the nationalist community in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46023/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Both I and my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, both personally and through our officials, engage regularly with the PSNI and other stakeholders to discuss a wide range of issues. Minister Flanagan and I have both expressed our ongoing support for the PSNI and I pay tribute to the excellent cooperation in place with An Garda Síochána.

The PSNI are aware that the attitudes and perceptions within the Nationalist community can act as a barrier to community confidence in policing and that heightened levels of 'Stop and Search' can have a negative impact in certain locations. These points have been discussed between my officials and the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland, including with the PSNI.

At a recent conference in Belfast, attended by my officials, young people from all backgrounds had the opportunity to engage directly with the PSNI Chief Constable and the Assistant Chief Constable to put across their views on the use of Stop and Search. In follow up discussions between my officials and the Chief Constable following this event, it was evident that he valued the engagement and understood the concerns.

I very much welcome the declared intention of the new Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, to refocus the PSNI on community policing. Such a refocusing could greatly improve community confidence in certain areas.

The PSNI, when carrying out their policing and security operations, have a duty of care to the public in terms of safety as well as in terms of remaining compliant with their responsibilities under human rights legislation and accountability mechanisms. The Performance Committee of the Policing Board carry out periodic reviews into the use of the Stop and Search Powers and continue to press the PSNI on the need to implement the recommendation, from the Board, to record the community background of those subjected to Stop and Search. Such information would be helpful in developing an evidence base which could inform future policy making in this area.

My Department will continue to engage with stakeholders, including the PSNI, to explore the reasons and incidents behind some negative perceptions of the PSNI within the Nationalist community and work to improve community confidence. The successful reform of policing, and the subsequent devolution of policing and justice powers to the Assembly, are central planks of the Peace Process and we will continue to support and protect these achievements.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

Ceisteanna (59)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

59. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the outcome of the most recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the UK Foreign Secretary in relation to the need to have comprehensive investigations into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974 as requested in motions passed unanimously in Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46426/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

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 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, and will raise it again at the next BIIGC.

I and Minister Flanagan have 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.

We will continue to engage with the British Government, at senior political level and at official level, to pursue all possible avenues to achieve progress on this issue, consistent with the request made by this House, 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.