Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (127, 128, 129, 130)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

127. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the British-Irish Council meeting held at Farmleigh recently. [48637/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

128. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the issues he discussed when he met the First Minister of Scotland when attending the British-Irish Council meeting. [48642/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

129. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the discussions held at the recent British-Irish Council on the future relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom particularly in the areas of education and research. [48645/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

130. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on discussions regarding tariff and quota-free trade between Ireland and the UK at the recent British-Irish Council meeting. [48646/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 to 130, inclusive, together.

I was pleased to welcome the Administration Heads from Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey and the British Government to Dublin for the 33rd British Irish Council on 15th November. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the British-Irish Council and it was agreed that the Council continues to be a valued institution of the Good Friday Agreement - it is a vital institution offering opportunities to engage on matters of mutual interest across our respective competencies.

The Summit provided an opportunity for Ministers to update the Council on their actions regarding Brexit and discuss the latest domestic political developments across their jurisdictions along with topics of mutual interest such as the economy, trade and ongoing relations with the EU.

The Council discussed the political situation in Northern Ireland, and regretted that Northern Ireland will not be represented politically at this important forum until the Executive is restored.

The Summit also heard from Health Ministers from each administration who met that morning to discuss Health and Social Initiatives to Combat Substance Misuse – in particular, the enhanced, innovative addiction treatment and rehabilitation services which will be central to tackling problematic drug and alcohol use in Dublin’s North East Inner City.

There were no discussions specifically relating to quotas and tariff free trade between Ireland and the UK or on the future relationship between Ireland and the UK in the areas of education and research.

While I did not have a dedicated bilateral meeting with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, over the course of several conversations during the Summit we discussed our respective perspectives on the British Irish Council, political developments and agreed that we want to see the Good Friday institutions up and running again as soon as possible.

I had a bilateral meeting with First Minister Sturgeon, during which we discussed Brexit, political developments and the ongoing review of bilateral relations between Ireland and Scotland.

Economic Data

Ceisteanna (131)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

131. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the remittances from Ireland, net and gross as appropriate, to countries around the world in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019 in tabular form. [48338/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) estimates worker remittances paid from Ireland as a small component of the current account of the balance of payments. The balance of payments is a complex accounting system which summarises economic transactions between Ireland and the rest of the world in a specific time period. The compilation of the balance of payments is based primarily on enterprise surveys. The framework includes also actual data and estimates of flows between resident and non-residents in the household, government, and non-profit institutions sectors.

In this context, workers’ remittances are all transfers between Irish resident households and non-resident households. A household is considered to be Irish resident if they have been present for one year or more in Ireland.

Remittance information is difficult to compile for National Statistics Offices and is usually based on administrative sources and modelling rather than direct collection. The current CSO data are estimated using Revenue data. Pay of non-national workers is used to estimate disposable income and to derive a remittance amount. The approach using indirect data sources is recognised as a standard approach in the IMF Guide for Compilers and Users of International Transactions in Remittances. The CSO is currently investigating new approaches to deriving remittance information.

The CSO currently makes no estimate for remittances made to Irish resident households from non-resident households. This is because: firstly, sources from which to compile such estimates are not readily available; secondly, it is believed that where such remittances are made, they are small in the context of the balance of payments and therefore there is not a pressing requirement to impute a value for them.

Data on remittances are published by Eurostat for all member states. The outflows from Ireland are presented in the table below for years 2016-2018 and the first two quarters of 2019.

2016

2017

2018

2019Q1*

2019Q2*

Country

€ millions

€ millions

€ millions

€ millions

€ millions

Brazil

9

9

8

2

2

Bulgaria

6

6

4

1

1

China

14

15

16

1

4

Czechia

17

17

16

4

4

Estonia

7

7

8

2

2

Hungary

28

28

28

7

7

India

42

43

44

11

11

Latvia

50

50

49

12

12

Lithuania

92

92

92

23

23

Malaysia

4

4

4

1

1

Mexico

1

1

0

0

0

Nigeria

17

17

16

4

4

Philippines

32

32

32

8

8

Poland

339

342

341

85

85

Romania

39

40

40

10

10

Slovakia

37

37

36

9

9

Turkey

2

2

4

1

1

Thailand

1

1

0

0

0

of which

EU28

615

621

618

154

154

Extra-EU28

160

163

161

37

40

Asia

97

97

101

25

29

Africa

26

27

28

7

7

America

10

10

12

3

3

Total

777

784

779

191

194

Source: CSO* Data not yet published

Naval Service Data

Ceisteanna (132)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

132. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of members of the Naval Service who spent more than 80 days at sea in each of the years 2016 to 2018. [48683/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I welcome the introduction of a new tax credit for sea going Naval Service personnel, which my colleague Mr Pascal Donohoe TD, Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform has introduced in the Finance Bill 2019 .

It is the result of constructive engagement within Government, by my officials and Defence Forces management, including those within the Naval Service. The proposed tax credit is based on the design of the existing Fishers’ tax credit, which was introduced in 2017, for the purpose of incentivising the sea-fishing industry.

This is another positive step that builds on this Government’s commitment to addressing the challenges in the Defence Forces. The measures taken in recent months include:

- Members of the Defence Forces are receiving increases in certain Defence specific allowances which was recommended by the Public Service Pay Commission.

- They are also receiving increases in their pay scales under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020.

- A service commitment incentive scheme has been restored for Air Corps pilots

- Members of the Army Ranger Wing, cooks and NCO account holders are receiving increases in their allowances arising from adjudications.

- Charges for rations and accommodation for recruits and apprentices have been abolished. 

I am advised by the Military authorities that the information requested in relation to the number of Naval service personnel who undertook 80 days or more at sea is not immediately available. I will write to the Deputy when I receive this information.

Defence Forces Transport

Ceisteanna (133)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

133. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of vehicles (details supplied) purchased in 2001 which are still in service; and his plans to replace same. [48692/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

The acquisition of equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for me. Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process.  The principal aim over the period of the White Paper will be to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements, including response to security risks and other emergencies, both at home and overseas.

Following a tender competition, a contract was signed on 30 November 1999 for the supply by Mowag of Switzerland of 40 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), initial spares, special tools and training courses. These vehicles were delivered in 2001 and 2002. Subsequent contracts in 2002 and 2005 saw a further 25 and 15 vehicles respectively delivered, bringing the fleet to its current strength of 80 vehicles. The MOWAG Armoured People Carrier has been the cornerstone of Irish Defence Forces deployments overseas offering essential force protection to Defence Forces personnel. All of the 40 initial vehicles delivered in 2001 and 2002 are still in active service.

In 2016 a contract was signed with General Dynamics European Land Systems – Mowag for a multi-year mid-life maintenance and upgrade programme of the MOWAG APC fleet at a cost of €55m plus VAT. The terms of this contract allows for changes to the scope of work and configuration of certain variants of vehicles to be agreed between the parties during the lifetime of the contract. The first 29 refurbished vehicles have been delivered in 2018 and 2019 and a further 9 are scheduled for delivery early in 2020. This programme will extend the utility of the fleet and provide greater levels of protection, mobility and firepower and will seek to ensure viability of the fleet out to 2030.

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary resources available to them, including a modern and effective range of equipment which is line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.

Defence Forces Equipment

Ceisteanna (134, 135)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

134. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the renewal and replacement programme he and the military authorities have for weaponry and other military equipment over the next three years; and when tenders for same will be issued. [48693/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

135. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the weaponry or other military equipment in the Defence Forces that has been upgraded or replaced since 2011 to replace outdated or defunct equipment; the cost of same; and when the equipment was delivered. [48694/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 135 together.

My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government, including overseas deployments.

The acquisition of new defensive equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for me. Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process. The principal aim over the period of the White Paper will be to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements, including response to security risks and other emergencies, both at home and overseas.

The mid-life upgrade programme for the Army’s fleet of eighty MOWAG Armoured Personnel Carriers will extend the utility of the fleet and provide greater levels of protection, mobility and firepower. 29 vehicles have already been upgraded and delivered to the Defence Forces during 2018 and 2019. The remaining vehicles due for upgrade will be delivered between 2020 and 2022. A significant investment of €68m incl VAT has been made on this programme. The terms of this contract, signed in 2016 allows for changes to the scope of work and configuration of certain variants of vehicles to be agreed between the parties during the lifetime of the contract.

Additionally, twenty-four 4 x 4 Armoured Utility Vehicles were acquired in 2017, and in 2018 delivery was taken of ten new armoured logistic vehicles. These measures with a combined cost of €13.5m inclusive of VAT will provide essential force protection overseas. A capability requirement for additional Armoured Utility Vehicles has been identified and a procurement process is expected to commence in 2020 for these vehicles.

The Government is currently investing in updating the Air Corps fleet of aircraft with the replacement of the existing five Cessna aircraft with three larger and more capable fixed wing utility Pilatus PC 12 aircraft which are being equipped for ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance). It is expected that the three aircraft will be delivered during 2020 at a cost of €43m inclusive of VAT. Planning is also underway to replace the CASA Maritime Patrol aircraft and a tender competition recently been completed in my Department and a preferred bidder has been identified.

The on-going Naval Service ship replacement programme is evidence of the Government's commitment to investment in the Naval Service. The most significant investment of recent years by the Defence Organisation has been on the procurement of the new Off-Shore Patrol Vessels for the Naval Service. This programme has seen the delivery of three new Naval Service vessels since 2014. The LÉ Samuel Beckett was commissioned in May 2014, LÉ James Joyce was commissioned in September 2015 and LÉ William Butler Yeats was commissioned into service in October 2016.

In June 2016, a contract for an additional sister ship was agreed, bringing investment in the new ships programme to some €270 million inclusive of VAT since 2010. This fourth ship, named LÉ George Bernard Shaw was commissioned into service in May 2019.

The P50 class vessels, 20 and 18 years old this year, now fall into the category of ship requiring a mid-life refurbishment / extension programme. Due to their age profile, much of the auxiliary equipment onboard is coming to the end of its useful life or is becoming obsolete and requires to be replaced in a structured manner.

The Mid-Life Extension Programme of LÉ Róisín commenced in March 2019, with an initial dry-docking phase to be followed by an extended period of equipment upgrade and refit works. Works are progressing as planned. LÉ Niamh’s extension programme is due to commence in 2020. Over the course of their extension programmes, LÉ Róisín and LÉ Niamh will be out of operation for a period of some twelve months each. Contracts to the value of the €7.6m inclusive VAT have been awarded for the main works associated with the upgrade to LÉ Róisín.

In addition, planning is ongoing for the replacement of the current Naval Service flagship LÉ Eithne with a multi role vessel.

With regard to Defence Forces communications systems, there is continued investment in the development of suitable network enabled communications in order to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex operational environment.

The examples given, whilst not exhaustive, demonstrate my commitment to update and upgrade the Defence Forces equipment and capability, within the financial envelope available. In accordance with the National Development Plan, the capital allocation for Defence was been increased to €113 million for 2020, an increase of €7 million from 2019. The National Development Plan provides for a total of €541 million for Defence over the period 2018-2022. This level of capital funding will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service as identified and prioritised in the Defence White Paper and builds on the significant investment programme over recent years.

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary modern and effective range of equipment available to them, including vehicles and communication systems, which is in line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Ceisteanna (136)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

136. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will clarify an issue regarding a delay in payment of a military allowance for Defence Force members who trained cadets (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48792/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Arrangements are being made to pay the Specialised Instructors Allowance to the relevant NCO Specialised Instructors. The payments will be processed on receipt of the required documentation from the Military authorities.

Defence Forces Medical Services

Ceisteanna (137)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

137. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if medical information sought by a person (details supplied) which is held by the Defence Forces will be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48977/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I am advised by the Military Authorities that the request has been received and the medical information sought will be released. Medical files have a privacy classification of medical in confidence and accordingly must be administered with due care and attention. The delay in releasing the file is due in the first instance to a current backlog in the processing of medical files as a result of a heavy volume of requests, many of which are under a statutory scheme for release of information. Therefore, precedence must be given to such applications. I have requested the Defence Forces to progress this request as quickly as possible.

Air Corps

Ceisteanna (138)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

138. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of pilots in the Defence Forces availing of the pilot retention scheme lump sum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49025/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The PSPC report on recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces recommended the reintroduction of the Air Corps Flying Officers Service Commitment Scheme that was discontinued in 2010.

The closing date for receipt of applications for the 2019 scheme is close of business on 29 November 2019. My Department has received a series of detailed queries seeking clarification of the operation of the scheme. My Officials are providing the clarifications sought.

Defence Forces Medical Services

Ceisteanna (139)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

139. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if funding will be allocated for the recruitment of an additional two full-time clinical psychologists for the Defence Forces. [49034/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

There are currently two full-time clinical psychologists employed by the Defence Forces. This number was increased following the review of mental health services for the Defence Forces in 2017, which recommended the appointment of a civilian psychologist in addition to the existing Defence Forces psychologist. There are no plans currently in place to recruit more clinical psychologists.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (140)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

140. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a new recruitment campaign for both the Air Corps and Naval Service will commence before the end of 2019. [49035/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

General Service recruitment is ongoing throughout 2019.

Recruitment plans for 2020 have not yet been finalised.

Army Barracks

Ceisteanna (141)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

141. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if construction work on the new gymnasia at Sarsfield Barracks, County Limerick, and Stephen's Barracks, County Kilkenny, has commenced; if so, the duration of the works; and the estimated cost of the projects. [49036/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

As part of the ongoing Capital Building Programme designed to modernise and enhance the training, operational and accommodation facilities available to members of the Defence Forces, the need to provide modern training facilities for member of the Defence Forces stationed at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick and Stephen’s Barracks in Kilkenny was recognised.

I am pleased to advise that I approved the Stephen’s Barracks Main Works contract in mid-October with Kevin Moore (Building Contractor) Ltd for a contract sum of €3.2m.  Construction work for this project has now commenced and works are expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

In relation to the Sarsfield Barracks gymnasium, I can advise that funding has been approved in the region of €3.3m.  A competitive tendering process took place earlier this year and tenders are currently being evaluated. The outcome of that evaluation is expected in the coming weeks and a Contractor will be appointed thereafter.

Defence Forces Properties

Ceisteanna (142)

Pat Casey

Ceist:

142. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the engagement between his Department, local residents and Wicklow County Council regarding ongoing land management access and maintenance of the Glen of Imaal firing range; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49108/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Glen of Imaal is an operational training facility for the Defence Forces.

The civilian Lands Staff employed by my Department at that location deal mainly with the herding and removal of sheep from the ranges prior to exercises and when necessary assist with mountain rescues.

Throughout the year advertisements are placed in the main national and local Wicklow newspapers which give a general warning around military firing ranges and advising that red flags indicate live firing.

I have been advised by my officials that the Department has not been approached in the recent past by Wicklow County Council or by local residents in regard to the lands there.

Air Navigation Orders

Ceisteanna (143)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

143. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the transit through Irish airspace was approved for two aircraft (details supplied) on 19 November 2019; if these NATO aircraft were carrying weapons or munitions; if they were engaged in or coming from or to military operations at the time. [48822/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952, made under the Air Navigation and Transport Act 1946, gives the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade primary responsibility for the regulation of activity by foreign military aircraft in and over Ireland.

Strict conditions apply to overflights by any and all foreign military aircraft through Irish sovereign airspace.

Overflights by US military aircraft are permitted without prior notification, on the basis that the aircraft are unarmed, carry only cargo and passengers and comply with navigational requirements. The US Embassy provides my Department with post hoc monthly returns on the total number of overflights and the types of aircraft involved. These US flights, which took place on 19 November, come under this arrangement and as such met these requirements.

EU Budget Contribution

Ceisteanna (144)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

144. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that on 10 October 2019 the European Parliament voted for a motion for a resolution to wind up the debate on the statements by the Council and the Commission on the MFF 2021-2027, a resolution which reiterated the fact that the next MFF should represent 1.3% of the EU GNI; the amount of a net increase this would amount to annually in the case of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48565/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The European Commission published its proposals for the 2021-2027 MFF on 2 May 2018. The Commission proposal envisaged a budget of 1.114% of EU 27 GNI, equivalent to €1.134 trillion over the seven-year period. The Commission proposal was the starting point for discussions that have been ongoing in the Council and European Parliament since then. The European Parliament is required to give its consent to the overall final MFF agreement.

I am aware that the European Parliament has published a number of Resolutions on the MFF proposals since early 2018, most recently its Resolution of 10 October, which reiterated its position that the next MFF should be 1.3% of EU 27 GNI.

At the October European Council, Heads of State and Government (HoSG) exchanged views on the MFF based on a Finnish Presidency discussion paper which proposed an MFF in the range of 1.03% - 1.08% of EU 27 GNI (including the European Development Fund). HoSG called on the Presidency to submit a Negotiating Box with figures ahead of the European Council on December 2019.

In the course of the discussions to date, the Government has said that Ireland is open to contributing more to the EU budget, provided that European Added Value is ensured and that our core interests - particularly CAP - are met. We will continue to seek to ensure that Ireland’s priorities are protected. The final overall level we can support will depend on the proposed balance between the main policy areas.

Ireland is likely to see significant growth in our contributions as part to the next MFF, largely as a result of our continued economic growth. The exact level of contributions will depend on the final MFF negotiations, in particular the overall level of expenditure and the Own Resources to be applied.

Passport Services

Ceisteanna (145)

John Lahart

Ceist:

145. Deputy John Lahart asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the use of passport cards within the EU will be clarified in view of the fact that some airlines operate booking systems with them and others do not as indicated in correspondence (details supplied). [48632/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

It is disappointing to hear that the person in question experienced difficulties with an airline website when using the Passport Card.

The Irish Passport Card is valid for travel to 31 countries: all EU Member States, the members of the EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and Switzerland.

It is fully compliant with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations concerning requirements for passports in card format.  Over 209,000 passport cards have been issued to date and users have found it to be a highly convenient travel document. 

Airport, port and immigration authorities in each of the countries for which the Card is valid for travel should be fully informed in relation to the Irish Passport Card.  The Irish authorities have engaged extensively with our international partners in relation to the card and will continue to do so. We have made contact with the airline to inform them of the problems experienced using the Passport Card that are outlined in your question.

Air Navigation Orders

Ceisteanna (146)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

146. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department or another Department authorised a British RAF fighter jet (details supplied) to fly over Irish sovereign territory on 19 November 2019; if so the reason therefor; and if the aircraft was carrying weapons and ammunition. [48916/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952, made under the Air Navigation and Transport Act 1946, gives the Minister for Foreign Affairs primary responsibility for the regulation of activity by foreign military aircraft in Ireland. Successive Ministers for Foreign Affairs have put in place strict conditions which must be satisfied before permission to overfly the territory of the State may be granted.

Thorough and robust procedures are in place in my Department with a view to ensuring that the conditions for securing permission for foreign military aircraft to overfly the State are clearly understood and properly applied.  These procedures are kept under ongoing review.  Comprehensive records on requests received and decisions made are retained for the purposes of monitoring and oversight, and are drawn on as needed including to provide information to this House as appropriate. 

My Department did not receive any requests to approve an overflight by the British military aircraft detailed during the period in question. The Department has also consulted the Irish Aviation Authority who have confirmed that they have no record of such a flight in Irish sovereign airspace on that date.

Passport Applications Data

Ceisteanna (147)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

147. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of first-time passport applicants from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, respectively, in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49028/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The numbers of first time passport applications received from applicants who were resident in Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the time of application for the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019 are detailed in the following table.

Year   

First time applications from Great Britain  

First time applications from Northern Ireland

2015

6,011

20,325

2016

18,263  

29,923

2017

31,675

40,089

2018

39,287

40,226

2019*

45,750

59,740

* to 31 October 2019 

All passport applications are subject to the provisions of the Passports Act, 2008, as amended. The Passports Act provides, among other things, that a person must be an Irish citizen before a passport can be issued to him or her. Entitlement to Irish citizenship is governed by Irish law and in particular the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended.

Middle East Issues

Ceisteanna (148)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

148. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he discussed the change in US policy on Israeli settlements at his recent meeting with the US Ambassador to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49029/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I met with the US Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Mr Crawford, and among other issues discussed, I raised the matter of the US statement on settlements. Ireland’s views on settlements have been made clear to the US administration in all meetings related to the Middle East Peace Process, including when I met Jared Kushner during UNGA high-level week in New York in September.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (149)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

149. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding the situation in Georgia; the position of Ireland on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49030/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland, together with the EU, continues to reaffirm its unwavering support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, as and when the opportunity presents itself across all local, EU and international fora.

The appointment in 2018 of a EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, as well as the EU Monitoring Mission, in which Ireland has representatives, are visible and substantial signs of the Union's commitment to helping Georgia address its security challenges.

Central to this support is the Eastern Partnership initiative, which provides a framework for cooperation between the EU and six countries in the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood, including Georgia. The aims of the Eastern Partnership are to promote peace and stability in the region and to enhance economic and political integration between the participating countries and the EU. 

Ireland welcome’s the policy of the Government of Georgia towards peaceful conflict resolution based on the fundamental principles of international law and support Georgia’s peace initiative ‘A Step to a Better Future’ aimed at improving the humanitarian and socio-economic conditions of people residing in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

However, Ireland remains concerned that 10 years after the Russia-Georgia war, the occupation of these regions still continues and that the security, human rights and humanitarian situation on the ground is deteriorating.  Ireland regrets reports of recent escalations along the Administrative Boundary Line between Tbilisi-administered Georgia and South Ossetia, including the temporary detainment of EU Monitoring Mission staff by a South Ossetian patrol. Additionally, continuing reports of ‘border creep’, the installation of barbed wire fences, and arbitrary detainment of Georgian citizens is of deep concern to Ireland.

The Geneva International Discussions aimed at settling the conflicts have made little progress to date however we remain fully supportive of this format and encourage the participants to engage in good faith in order to find  solutions for the safety and humanitarian needs of the population affected by the conflict.

Finally, Ireland shares the concerns of our EU Partners over the new security and humanitarian concerns which have emerged in the regions affected by the conflict. Of particular concern is the decision in Sokhumi of 4 April 2019 that provides for the punishment by death, under certain circumstances, of the so-called export/import and/or transit of drugs and we reiterate our opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (150)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

150. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the practical toolkit on business and human rights for public and private entities has been developed as outlined in the national plan on business and human rights; and if not, the reason therefor in view of the fact that it was due to be developed within 12 months of the publication of the national plan. [49055/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Since the launch of the Government's National Plan on Business and Human Rights at the end of 2017, work on a number of the initial priorities has been completed, including the establishment of the Business and Human Rights Implementation Group and the commissioning of the baseline study on the current legislative and regulatory framework for business and human rights in Ireland. 

 A number of sub-groups are being set up to take forward implementation of other key action points identified in the National Plan, including the development of a practical toolkit on business and human rights for public and private entities to assist them in their human rights due diligence and it is expected that this task will be completed within the next year.

A key consideration is the need to avoid duplication with resources that are already available.  In this regard I would highlight the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, which aim to promote positive contributions by enterprises to economic, environmental and social progress worldwide.  The guidelines provide principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a global context and contain a comprehensive approach to due diligence and responsible supply chain management. 

Tax Credits

Ceisteanna (151, 172)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

151. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if a reply will issue to matters raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) relating to the seafarers credit and tax allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48802/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

172. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his plans to extend to personnel serving on board the Irish Lights ship ILV Granuaile an entitlement to the tax credit given to qualifying Naval Service personnel in the Finance Bill 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49056/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 172 together.

Section 5 of Finance Bill 2019 provides for the introduction of a targeted and time bound income tax credit for permanent members of the Irish Naval Service. This is a once-off measure that will apply in 2020 only, in respect of service carried out in 2019. It is based on the design of the existing Fisher Tax Credit (s472BA of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997) and will provide an income tax credit of €1,270 to permanent members of the Irish Naval Service who spent at least 80 days at sea on a naval vessel in 2019.

As I outlined in my recent Finance Bill 2019 Report Stage speech, the intention is that this tax credit will act as a temporary device as we prepare for other measures in the context of future discussion on public pay. The Naval Service has particular challenges with regard to recruitment and retention, a fact that was acknowledged by Deputy McGrath during the Report Stage debates. As such, I believe it is appropriate that this measure is introduced at this time and with the particular restrictions that I have specified.