Overseas Development Aid

Ceisteanna (107, 118)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

107. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the commitments made at the recent Nairobi summit marking 25 years of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo; the way in which they will be monitored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51209/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

118. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which the national commitments made at the recent Nairobi summit marking 25 years of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo will be implemented and monitored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51598/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 118 together.

Improving maternal and reproductive health is an important focus of Ireland's international development policy with health system strengthening at the heart of Ireland’s approach.

Ireland works through the UNFPA, the World Health Organisation, with organisations such the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria and with civil society partners. Ireland does so to ensure access to essential drugs, health services, and best practice, including building more effective health workforces, with an emphasis on better health outcomes for women and children.

Ireland recognises that quality health systems must include access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services if women's health outcomes are to be transformed, including reducing maternal and child mortality. This is consistent with the global ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs also reaffirm the Programme for Action agreed 25 years ago by 179 countries, including Ireland, at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). A High Level Summit - “Nairobi Summit on ICPD25: Accelerating the Promise”, 12 to 14 November 2019 – was convened by the Governments of Kenya and Denmark, together with UNFPA, to mark the 25 years since Cairo. The Nairobi Summit has helped to galvanise political and financial commitments needed to complete the unfinished business of the ICPD Programme of Action.

At the Nairobi Summit, Ireland reaffirmed its commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action and the SDGs including elements relating to women’s health and on ending gender based violence A full list of the commitments made by participants in the Nairobi summit, including Ireland, is available on the ICPD25 website: https://www.nairobisummiticpd.org/commitments

In all, over 1,200 commitments were made at the Summit by Governments, the private sector, faith-based organisations, academia, and civil society. Ireland plans to use the existing reporting systems for the ICPD Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, i.e., the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD) and the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), for stock taking on and follow-up to the national commitments announced at the Nairobi Summit as appropriate.

It has also been suggested that the Nairobi commitments be monitored by a Commission set up by UNFPA that will run until 2030, alongside the SDGs and Ireland would support such an approach.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (108)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

108. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Iran; his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51215/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I am deeply concerned by recent events in Iran. The growing body of evidence which indicates that a large number of demonstrators have been killed in Iran at the hands of the security forces during demonstrations in recent weeks, is extremely disturbing. The protests which were sparked by a sharp rise in fuel prices and took place in several Iranian cities and towns, have also, according to reports, left many people injured. Any use of violence is unacceptable.

On 8 December, EU High Representative Borrell issued a statement urging the Iranian authorities to ensure transparent and credible investigations to clarify the number of deaths and arrested, and to provide due process to all detainees. I also note President Rouhani’s call, made on 4 December, for the release of unarmed and innocent people detained during the protests. Ireland calls on Iran to comply with its international human rights obligations, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression, as well as the right to peaceful assembly.

The five-day internet shutdown in Iran during the protests is also a matter for concern. The internet is an important outlet for freedom of expression and access to information, as well as being an integral part of ordinary contacts with friends and family.

I am deeply concerned by Iran’s latest announcements and actions in contradiction with its commitments under the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA). Ireland joins our EU partners in calling on Iran to reverse all activities that are inconsistent with its commitments under the JCPOA and to refrain from any further steps. Ireland remains fully committed to the preservation and full implementation of the agreement, which is in everyone's interest.

Ireland supports efforts to pursue a policy of positive engagement with Iran, including the efforts of the remaining JCPOA participants to facilitate continuing trade with Iran. Recent actions by Iran, however, are making this very difficult. Ireland will continue to support diplomatic efforts towards de-escalation and a return to constructive dialogue.

Crime Investigation

Ceisteanna (109)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

109. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Malta; his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51216/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, announced on 1 December that he will step down as his party's leader on 12 January 2020 and as Prime Minister in the days after. This follows a number of significant arrests made in late November in relation to the October 2017 murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Allegations have been made against senior Government officials and a number of resignations have taken place.

Immediately following Ms. Caruana Galizia's murder, Ireland condemned it as an unspeakable attack on freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right in a democracy. It is essential for a healthy democracy that journalists feel safe to pursue their work. It is Ireland's hope that developments in the investigation will lead to those responsible for Ms. Caruana Galizia's murder finally being brought to justice.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (110)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

110. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and efforts to de-escalate violence and tension in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51217/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Following the 18-year tenure of Joseph Kabila, Felix Tshisekedi was elected President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in January 2019. The elections were marred by accusations of late poll openings, balloting issues and voter intimidation. Despite questions around the legitimacy of the election result, President Tshisekedi’s inauguration marked the first peaceful transition of power in DRC since its independence in 1960.

Some progress has been made since President Tshisekedi assumed power in January, including first steps towards political relaxation and the opening of democratic space. Commitments have been made to national recovery based on respect for the rule of law; the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; the fight against impunity and against corruption; and an improvement of the security situation.

The DRC government, led by Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, has translated the President’s commitments into an ambitious reform programme.

However, the political and security situation in the DRC remains extremely challenging, with many active armed groups complicating efforts to address security and humanitarian concerns.

Almost 13 million people in the DRC are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. At present there are several humanitarian crises; these include disease outbreaks (cholera, Ebola, malaria, measles) and mass displacements of people. Driving the multiple crises are conflict, political instability, competition for land and natural resources, and poverty. DRC is currently experiencing the world’s second largest ever Ebola outbreak and the first ever outbreak in a conflict area. Over 3,300 people have been infected and over 2,100 have died.

A large UN-led peacekeeping and humanitarian infrastructure is in place in DRC. MONUSCO, has been present in eastern DRC since 1999 and currently some 18,000 military and civilian staff are deployed as part of this mission, including three members of the Irish Defence Forces. An Independent Strategic Review of MONUSCO was conducted in 2019 ahead of the renewal of its mandate in December 2019.

A large humanitarian community is also present in DRC but given the scale of humanitarian needs, scarce resources, and the long standing structural drivers of instability, humanitarian actors are experiencing difficulties in reacting to emergencies.

During this year, WHO has documented approximately 390 attacks on health facilities, leading to ten killed and 83 injured. In recent weeks the number of security incidents in DRC has increased significantly, especially in parts of the east of the country. WHO has evacuated 173 staff from Biakato Mines and Mangina.

Since the start of November the increasingly active conflict between the FARDC, the national army, and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has led to the deaths of an estimated 100 people in the Beni region with thousands of others displaced. Recently, protests took place in Beni and in Butembo as communities affected by severe violence engaged in demonstrations. On 25 November, a crowd marched to the camp of MONUSCO in Beni to protest against the latest fatal attack by the ADF, in which eight people died, and the failure of the UN and government troops to prevent the attack. Protesters torched a building on the UN base and the town hall in Beni.

In 2019, Ireland provided €7.8 million in development and humanitarian assistance to UN and NGO partners in DRC, including €2 million to WHO in response to the Ebola outbreak. Ireland continues to work with EU and its Member States to address the humanitarian situation and the drivers of poverty and conflict in DRC.

Israeli Settlements

Ceisteanna (111)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

111. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on reports of plans for new settlements in Hebron; the actions he will take in view of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51218/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland's position on settlement expansion, related infrastructure development, the demolition of Palestinian homes and other buildings, and the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes, is extremely clear. Settlements are illegal under international law, and all actions which compromise the viability of a future Palestinian state are very damaging. Such unilateral actions further diminish the prospects for successful negotiations and an end to the conflict, something which I firmly believe is in the best interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Last week I made my fourth visit to Israel and Palestine as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I held meetings with a range of senior political figures, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz. I very clearly conveyed Ireland’s unequivocal position on the illegality of settlements and on the harmful effects of settlement expansion. I also discussed settlement activity in my meetings with Palestinian leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.

I am aware of the reports to which the Deputy refers, on plans for new settlement construction in Hebron. Any further settlement expansion in Hebron would be deeply regrettable, and would be likely to accentuate tensions in an already fragile situation. This is particularly the case following the Israeli Government’s decision earlier this year not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, which had played an important role in preventing violence.

Ireland will continue to convey our concerns on related developments on the ground in all relevant international fora, as well as directly with the Israeli authorities. Ireland and the EU stand by the internationally agreed parameters for a negotiated peace agreement and continue to urge the Israeli Government to uphold its international legal obligations, including under the Fourth Geneva Convention, on the treatment of a civilian population.

Overseas Development Aid

Ceisteanna (112)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

112. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the new initiative on sexual and reproductive health and rights promised in A Better World; when the initiative will be launched; the level of funding to be allocated for its implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51237/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

In February 2019, the Government launched Ireland’s new international development policy, A Better World. Building on Ireland’s track record in delivering for the poorest and most vulnerable, A Better World seeks to realise the transformational pledge of the Sustainable Development Goals – reaching the furthest behind first.

Improving the quality and availability of health services with a strong focus on maternal and child health has been a longstanding component of Ireland’s development cooperation programme. Access to health services, including access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, is fundamental for realising Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and transforming women’s health outcomes.

A Better World commits to a new initiative around Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, building on our partnerships in health and HIV and AIDS. In line with the new policy, the Government has taken steps to deepen and expand on our existing partnerships in this area.

My Department is scoping the range of interventions and partnerships that Ireland currently support in the area of SRHR to inform how we plan to further deepen our support and engagement on SRHR in line with our new policy commitments, and to ensure coherence between our international development work and our domestic legislation and policies. This will inform the continued implementation of our commitments around SRHR in A Better World and the increased allocation of funding in this area in line with the government’s commitment towards achieving the UN target 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) to be allocated to Official Development Assistance by 2030.

In October this year, my Department committed to increase our support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Ireland will increase its funding to the Global Fund in the next replenishment cycle by at least 50% bringing Ireland’s funding to at least €45 million over the 2020-2022 Sixth Replenishment period. This significant financial commitment will support the acceleration of global efforts to end the epidemics of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria worldwide.

My Department is also supporting key partners including UN agencies, UNFPA, UNAIDS and UNESCO that are working to increase access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Ireland has also committed to providing at least €250 million over the next five years to global education with a focus on improving access to quality education for girls, and access to education in emergencies. This commitment includes support for partners working on programmes that focus on providing young people with the knowledge and information they need to protect themselves from HIV, including through keeping girls in school and supporting comprehensive sexuality education.

Departmental Advertising Campaigns

Ceisteanna (113)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

113. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the advertising campaigns, promotional events and launches planned by his Department for the first six months of 2020; the budgeted costs of these campaigns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51411/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department engages in public awareness advertising where there is important information that needs to be brought to the attention of citizens. In 2019, some examples of campaigns included the new Passport Online and ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’, both these campaigns will be ongoing in the first half of 2020.

The estimated budget for the Passport Online Campaign will be approximately €550,000 which is in line with previous such campaigns. The objective being to have a continual presence and awareness of the Online Passport Service for Irish adults and children. The campaign will have a multi-faceted approach, through social media platforms, national and regional print and broadcast media and outdoor advertising.

Expenditure on the “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready” Public Information campaign was approximately €1.5 million in 2019. While the costs of the 2019 campaign were borne by my Department, this is a whole of Government campaign prepared and executed in partnership with other Government Departments and Agencies, in particular, the Department of the Taoiseach. The public information campaign will continue pending the outcome of the General Election in the United Kingdom and subsequent political developments and decisions. Campaign details and projected expenditure in this area will be made available once those plans have been finalised.

In addition to public awareness advertising my Department will participate in a number of public outreach opportunities. Such outreach events provide an effective means to engage with a broad cross-section of the public. They are particularly important in providing essential information concerning the services and programmes operated by the Department and to keep the public informed of the many areas of work where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is active on their behalf.

Public Outreach engagements currently foreseen for the first half of 2020 include providing an information stand and workshops at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition, participating in 2020 ESB Science Blast Events in Dublin , Limerick and Belfast , and supporting a range of community-based events around Ireland to celebrate Africa Day. The budget available for these events is still being finalised, but indicatively, the equivalent budget during 2019 was in the region of €160,000.

Data Sharing Arrangements

Ceisteanna (114)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

114. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the data sharing agreements his Department has in place with organisations that are not other Departments or State agencies; the purpose of these data sharing agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51428/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Compliance with the GDPR is an ongoing obligation and my Department consistently reviews its data processing activities to ensure compliance. This includes ensuring that the appropriate data sharing agreements and data processor agreements are in place to provide for and protect the rights and freedoms of data subjects under the GDPR.

My Department currently does not have data sharing agreements in place with organisations that are not other Government Departments or state agencies.

Freedom of Information Data

Ceisteanna (115)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

115. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of freedom of information requests in which his Department made a decision to deny; and the number in which the Information Commissioner overturned the decision of his Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [51462/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The information requested by the Deputy is provided in tabular format below. The total number of requests refused includes cases refused on the grounds the record requested did not exist.

In the interest of transparency and openness, details of all non-personal FOI requests which have been granted, part granted or refused are made available on my Department's website. In each case the response letter and schedule of records are published.

2016

Number of FOI requests received

214

Number of FOI requests refused

22

Number of FOI requests part granted

66

Number of FOI requests referred to Office of the Information Commissioner for review

3

Office of the Information Commissioner reviews (Decision affirmed)

3

Office of the Information Commissioner reviews (Decision Overturned)

0

2017

Number of FOI requests received

262

Number of FOI requests refused

29

Number of FOI requests part granted

75

Number of FOI requests referred to Office of the Information Commissioner for review

5

Office of the Information Commissioner reviews (Decision affirmed)

4

Office of the Information Commissioner reviews (Decision overturned)

1

2018

Number of FOI requests received

320

Number of FOI requests refused

42

Number of FOI requests part granted

91

Number of FOI requests referred to Office of the Information Commissioner for review

2

Office of the Information Commissioner reviews (Decision affirmed)

1

Office of the Information Commissioner reviews (Decision varied)

1

2019

Number of FOI requests received (up to 30th September)

286

Number of FOI requests refused

54

Number of FOI requests part granted

94

Number of FOI requests referred to Office of the Information Commissioner for review

11

Office of the Information Commissioner reviews (Decision affirmed)

3

Office of the Information Commissioner reviews (Under consideration)

8

Departmental Agencies Data

Ceisteanna (116)

James Browne

Ceist:

116. Deputy James Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the agencies or organisations under the remit of his Department; the number that have boards; the number of positions on each board; the number of vacant positions; and the agencies or organisations that have boards whose members have an obligation to appear before committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas. [51496/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

There are no agencies or organisations under the remit of my Department.

Departmental Staff Data

Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 107.

Ceisteanna (117)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

117. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the budget and number of staff working in his Department in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51567/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

In recent years my Department has recruited a significant number of additional staff. As well as recruitment to fill vacancies that arose during the embargo, staff have been allocated to support Brexit-related negotiations and preparations following the decision by the UK in 2016 to leave the EU. Further investment since then relates primarily to demands on the passport service and the expansion of Ireland’s diplomatic and consular mission network as part of the Global Ireland 2025 initiative, including operational and policy reinforcement in headquarters to support that objective.

In the past year new Embassies have opened in Wellington, Bogotá, Amman, Monrovia and Santiago de Chile, and new Consulates General in Vancouver, Mumbai, Cardiff, Frankfurt and Los Angeles. This brings to ninety the number of diplomatic Missions in the network. Next year new Embassy openings are planned for Kyiv in Ukraine, Manila in the Philippines and Rabat in Morocco.

My Department has strengthened capacity in the Passport Service by recruiting additional permanent and temporary staff over the past twelve months to respond to a general increase in applications as well as from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The total full-time equivalent number of staff in my Department for the end of each year from 2014 to 2018 and the end of October 2019 (inclusive of locally recruited staff and Temporary Clerical Officers for the Passport Service) are detailed in the table below, together with the Department’s budget for the same period.

The Department’s overall expenditure for each of the years 2014 to 2018, and the budget figures for 2019 are set out below.

Year

Number of Staff

Vote 27 (€Million)

Vote 28 (€Million)

2014

1,403.25

474.562

153.201

2015

1,438.33

473.471

157.425

2016

1,555.60

483.304

158.521

2017

1,626.82

482.940

159.036

2018

1,777.27

513.219

162.381

2019 to date

2,135.72

543.826

212.500

Question No. 118 answered with Question No. 107.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (119, 121)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

119. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his recent visit to the Middle East; the meetings held; the issues discussed, specifically relating to the funding allocated for solar power plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51604/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

121. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his recent visit to Israel and Palestine; if he raised the expansion of illegal settlements with the Israeli Prime Minister; if he and the Prime Minister discussed the impact of the policies of the Administration of the United States of America on the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51611/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 121 together.

Last week, I undertook a three-day working visit to Israel and Palestine, which encompassed a wide range of engagements in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Gaza and Bethlehem. This was my fourth visit to Israel and Palestine as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I met with key representatives of the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as UN officials from UNRWA, UNTSO and OHCHR, as well as visiting an Israeli community close to Gaza.

The political leaders I met with on the Israeli side included Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Katz. On the Palestinian side, my meetings included President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Dr. Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I also met with the Palestinian Minister for Education, Dr. Marwan Awartani, and signed a memorandum of understanding which outlined Irish support for the Palestinian education sector, and with Minister Mazen Ghuneim, head of the Palestinian Water Authority. In all of these meetings I conveyed the importance the Irish people attach to the resolution of the Middle East Peace Process, something that has been a priority for me personally since I took office.

In my meetings with the Israeli authorities, I expressed Ireland’s concerns about the impact of the continuing occupation, including the situation in Gaza, settlement construction and the demolition of properties in the West Bank and actions taken against Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

I had a frank discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu about actions taken by Israel over recent years which are jeopardising the viability of a two-state solution and thus the prospect of a just and lasting solution to the conflict. I reiterated the EU’s and Ireland’s well known views that settlements are illegal under international law and the urgent need to address the unsustainable situation in Gaza. I discussed how Ireland and the EU can play a constructive role in the MEPP, and outlined Ireland’s commitment to support efforts towards a just and sustainable peace. I also raised Ireland’s concerns about the protection of civil society space.

During my visit to Gaza, I met with secondary school students from an UNRWA school in Jabalia, where I saw first-hand the impact of Ireland’s commitment to supporting quality education for children, including the 282,000 UNRWA students in Gaza. I also met with senior UNRWA officials and discussed the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip and the operational challenges facing the agency. Ireland is a longstanding supporter of UNRWA in its provision of services to Palestinian refugees. I was pleased to announce that Ireland will provide an additional €2.5 million in funding this year to support the delivery of these core services, bringing Ireland’s total support to UNRWA in 2019 to €7.5 million.

I also visited the Northern Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment (NGEST) where I met with Minister Mazen Ghunaim to formally launch Ireland’s investment in support of the water sector. Ireland will contribute €8.8 million to a joint project with France to build a 7.5mW solar power plant providing clean, reliable energy to the NGEST wastewater treatment plant. Water pollution is the leading cause of child mortality in Gaza, where critical energy shortages mean that it is particularly difficult to power water treatment facilities.

Ultimately, however, we know that only a political solution can lead to sustainable development in Gaza. I witnessed the effects of the blockade, and the effects that this is having on young people's prospects and hopes, leading to a dangerous sense of despair. We need to see an end to the blockade of Gaza, an end to the cycle of conflict, and an end to the political division between Gaza and the West Bank. I will continue to work to ensure that the Middle East Peace Process remains high on the international agenda.

Human Rights

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 119.

Ceisteanna (120)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

120. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the issue of Bahrain and reported human rights abuses has been raised at the EU Foreign Affairs Council; if he has expressed his views to the Bahraini authorities regarding human rights there, including the treatment of prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51610/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The human rights situation in Bahrain remains a matter of concern. Although progress has been made in certain areas, there continue to be instances of violations of fundamental freedoms, including the targeting of human rights defenders.

While the issue of Bahrain has not been raised at the Foreign Affairs Council recently, 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 regularly raises our concerns about the human rights situation with the Bahraini authorities. 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 met with a delegation from Bahrain in November 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.

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.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 119.

Syrian Conflict

Ceisteanna (122)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

122. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Syria; the efforts being made to bring an end to the long-running conflict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51638/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Since 2011, the conflict in Syria has cost the lives of well over 400,000 people. Around 6.2 million people are displaced inside Syria, and a further 5.6 million have fled to neighbouring countries and the wider region. After almost nine years of conflict, nearly 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, and more than 80 per cent of people live below the poverty line. This year there have been alarming escalations of violence in the north-east and north-west in the country.

In the north-east, the Turkish incursion of October 2019 against Kurdish forces in the border area has severely destabilised the region and undermined the fight against ISIS. Around 75,000 people remain displaced as a result of the unilateral action. Moreover, the potential for conflict remains while Russian, Turkish and Syrian Government troops vie for influence and control. Ireland has issued three statements on the military action, stressing that respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians, especially displaced and vulnerable communities, must be paramount. As a result of the operation, EU Member States have committed to halting arms export to Turkey.

In the north-west of Syria, in the area around Idlib, conflict between armed groups and forces of the Syrian Government, aided by Russia, has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the displacement of more than 400,000 people since May. I have publically condemned, on a number of occasions, the violence that is taking place. The airstrikes that are reported to have targeted civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities and schools, are particularly abhorrent and the escalation of hostilities in recent days is very troubling. The EU has called on the Syrian Government and its allies to cease these attacks. Ireland welcomed the announcement, on 1 August, of the establishment of a UN Board of Inquiry to investigate these incidents.

Ireland takes every appropriate opportunity to speak out against human rights abuses and breaches of international humanitarian law in Syria in international fora, including the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Ireland also strongly supports accountability mechanisms for crimes committed during the war and has contributed €500,000 to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), established by the UN General Assembly.

The UN is attempting to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict. Ireland welcomes the agreement on the formation of the UN-facilitated Constitutional Committee, which has begun meeting in Geneva. It is intended that this Committee will chart the way forward for the country and unlock a broader political process. This will, of course, only be a starting point; reforming the constitution will not, in itself, offer the types of guarantees against persecution which Syrian refugees would need to return home.

It is imperative that Ireland continues to contribute to the humanitarian effort in Syria. Our overall funding supports those in need inside Syria as well as Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in the region. In March 2019, Ireland pledged a further €25 million to the crisis, bringing the total amount of humanitarian assistance committed to the Syria crisis to over €143 million since 2012 – our largest ever response to any single crisis. In November, Ireland supported two projects in areas that have received the highest proportion of displaced persons, including one in north-east Syria.

Humanitarian aid will not solve the conflict, though it is important in mitigating its impact on the millions of innocent victims of the war. Any sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict requires a genuine political transition. I take this opportunity to reiterate Ireland’s strong support for the work of the UN Special Envoy and urge all parties to engage with the UN-led process.

Disabilities Data

Question No. 124 answered with Question No. 106.

Ceisteanna (123)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

123. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if each embassy is fully wheelchair accessible; if not, the embassies that are not fully wheelchair accessible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51656/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The State’s network of diplomatic and consular missions plays a key role in promoting Ireland’s political and economic interests and in protecting our citizens abroad. High standards of health and safety and universal accessibility are prerequisites when the Department acquires new premises or refurbishes existing properties. Of the total of 93 Missions overseas, the 15 listed in the following table do not currently have full wheelchair accessibility. In most cases this is because premises are located in an office block where the landlord has not yet installed the necessary infrastructure, or because the building has special heritage or listed status. Nevertheless, my Department will continue to work towards providing universal access to all our buildings. A new premises soon to be rented in Tallinn, and new Embassy buildings planned for Tokyo and Abuja will incorporate full wheelchair access facilities.

Diplomatic and consular offices overseas currently without wheelchair access

ABUJA

BANGKOK

CAIRO

COPENHAGEN

EDINBURGH

FREETOWN

KAMPALA

LUXEMBOURG

MONROVIA

MOSCOW

TALLINN

THE HAGUE

TOKYO

The HOLY SEE

WASHINGTON DC

Question No. 124 answered with Question No. 106.

EU Meetings

Ceisteanna (125)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

125. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the December 2019 EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting; the issues that will be discussed; and if he will meet with the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission. [51537/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I attended a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels yesterday, Monday 9 December. The meeting was chaired by the newly-appointed High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, Mr. Josep Borrell.

Under current affairs, Ministers discussed the agenda for the forthcoming European Council, Libya and Hong Kong. Ministers also touched on the Arctic, DRC, Bolivia, Moldova and Transdniestria. Under AOB, I briefed my counterparts on my recent visit to Israel and Palestine which took place from 2 to 4 December.

EU Foreign Ministers discussed the following topics: EU-Africa relations, prior to the forthcoming EU-African Union Ministerial; and Promoting and protecting human rights in the world, particularly in view of Human Rights Day on 10 December. On the former, I intervened highlighting Ireland’s newly launched Africa Strategy and encouraged a more integrated and coordinated approach to the continent. Ministers agreed that we must engage early, often and in a coherent manner with our African partners and focus on the root causes of problems.

On human rights, I noted Ireland’s intention to lead on the civil society space resolution in the Human Rights Council and reiterated Ireland’s support for a proposed EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime. The HR/VP tasked the EEAS to take forward work this proposed sanctions regime. There was strong consensus to adopt a visible and joined up action plan on human rights and democracy for 2020-2024.

We also exchanged views with the High Representative/Vice President over lunch on his priorities and vision for his term in office. As well as meeting HR/VP Borrell at the FAC, I have also met with him many times in his previous role as Spanish Foreign Minister and also had the opportunity to talk with him in his new capacity as HR/VP on the margins of the OSCE Ministerial meeting in Bratislava on 5 December.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

Ceisteanna (126)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

126. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the work being carried out to implement the all-party motions of 2008 and 2011 relating to the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan atrocities as per the statement of strategy of his Department. [51541/19]

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 and 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 Conference.

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 on this matter, until a resolution is found.

The Government has noted, and welcomes the announcement by the PSNI on 30 November, that former Bedfordshire Chief Constable Jon Boutcher will head an Independent Police Team to conduct an analytical report on collusion into the 'Glenanne Gang' series of cases. This follows a campaign and successful legal action in Northern Ireland and supported by victims' families, North and South, to seek the completion of such a report. The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is also conducting an investigation into collusion around the activities of the 'Glenanne Gang'.

It is to be hoped that these investigations will contribute to the long process of justice, truth and acknowledgement of what happened in these awful cases, where collusion is a feature, including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and other attacks in this jurisdiction.

The Government will remain strongly supportive of facilitating these investigations, in accordance with the law, and as we have other investigative processes in Northern Ireland dealing with Troubles cases. The Government will also continue to closely monitor the outcome of all such relevant investigations, as we pursue all possible avenues to achieve progress on the Dáil Motions, and the request made by this House to the British Government.

The Government will also continue to engage on a cross-party basis on this matter and maintain 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.