Employment Data

Ceisteanna (88, 89)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Ceist:

88. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Taoiseach the rate of employment for those of working age and classified as having a disability; and the way in which this compares to the EU average. [52887/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

89. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Taoiseach the rate of employment here for those of working age and classified as having a disability; and the way in which this compares to the EU average. [52948/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 89 together.

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available.

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

Respondents to the LFS are asked whether they have at least one long-lasting condition or difficulty and the most recent figures available are for Q2 2019.

The employment rate for any category of persons is calculated as the number of employed persons aged 15-64 years in that category expressed as a percentage of the total number of persons aged 15 to 64 in that category.

The employment rate for persons aged 15-64 years classified as having a disability was 39.9% in Q2 2019.

There is currently no corresponding EU 28 data available.

Unemployment Data

Ceisteanna (90)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

90. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Taoiseach the number of jobless households here; and the way in which the rate of jobless households compares to the EU average. [52950/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available.

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

The quarterly LFS results include the following jobless household indicators:

The indicator "Proportion of persons aged 0 - 17 years living in jobless households" is calculated as the share of persons aged 0 - 17 years who are living in households where no one is in employment.

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

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

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

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

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

Proportion of persons aged 0-17 years in jobless households

2018 1

Ireland

11.4

EU 28

9.4

Proportion of persons aged 18-59 years in jobless households

Ireland

9.4

EU 28

9.0

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

1 Calculated as average of four quarters.

Data may be subject to future revision.

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

Reference period: January - December (annual average).

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (91)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

91. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach the number of credit cards issued to Ministers and officials working in his Department; the amount spent on credit cards in each year since 2016; the bank interest paid on credit cards in each year since 2016; the controls in place to monitor the issuing of and the expenditure on the cards; and the controls in place in each agency to monitor expenditure on personally held credit card bills that are subsequently used to recoup work related expenses. [52581/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

No credit cards are issued to Ministers in my Department. There are currently five credit cards in use for official purposes assigned to three Heads of Division (Finance, HR and IT) and two Private Secretaries.

Departmental credit cards are used for official purposes only. They are allocated to officials where the facility will be of practical use in meeting the requirements of official business, for example, while away from the office; and to procure goods and services such as on-line conference bookings, air travel, purchase of IT equipment and library supplies. Increasingly, online bookings for flights, hotels, rail travel and newspaper subscriptions can only be secured with credit cards and online discounts or better value rates are applied for such bookings.

The use of official credit cards is closely monitored by my Department's Finance Unit on an ongoing basis. Expenditure must be supported by receipts submitted by card holders each month as part of the approval process for the associated expenditure. The allocation and use of official credit cards are reviewed on an ongoing basis, with a view to minimising the number of cards allocated.

In general, staff in my Department do not use personal credit cards for official expenses. However, if an official expense is incurred on a personal credit card, the expense can be reimbursed as long as the purchase adheres to normal procurement and approval guidelines.

My Department's spend on credit cards for the period 2016 to 2019 is detailed in the following table.

YEAR

TOTAL CREDIT CARD SPEND

INTEREST PAID

2016

€45,304.60

0

2017

€64,308.26

0

2018

€81,377.18

0

to end November 2019

€56,894.61

0

The National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), a body under the aegis of my Department, has currently 1 credit card in operation. During the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 there were 2 credit cards in operation. A total amount of €13,485.71 was charged to those credit cards in 2016, €13,646.41 was charged to those cards in 2017 and €20,902.60 was charged to those cards in 2018. During 2019 due to staff changes, there were 4 credit cards in operation which has subsequently been reduced to 1 credit card. In 2019 to date, €14,634.06 has been charged to credit cards. No bank interest has been paid in any of the years in question. Credit cards are used for official purposes only, for example, travel related expenses, conference attendances, ordering research articles and payment of subscriptions. Credit cards are only used where normal procurement procedures (i.e. using a Purchase Order) cannot be applied, for example, paying foreign hotel bills. It is not the practice for NESDO staff to use personal credit cards for work purposes.

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (92)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

92. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Taoiseach the capital allocation of his Department in each of the years 2020 to 2025; and the areas to which funds will be allocated in each year. [52582/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

My Department has no capital allocation for the years 2020 to 2025.

Defence Forces Personnel Data

A deferred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (93)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

93. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 99 of 18 June 2019, if the information is now to hand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52639/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The information requested by the Deputy, namely the number of persons by gender in both the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve, in each of the years 2010 to date in 2019, is currently being compiled by the Military Authorities and I hope to provide a response in the near future.

A deferred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Defence Forces Medical Services

Ceisteanna (94)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

94. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 137 of 26 November 2019, if a further update will be provided in view of the urgency of the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52653/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Further to Parliamentary Question No. 137 of the 26 November 2019. I am advised by the Military Authorities that the request in question has been released to the individual's solicitors by registered post on 9 December 2019.

Air Corps

Ceisteanna (95)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

95. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to instances in which Air Corps personnel were engaged in employment outside of their official duties; if he has imposed sanctions on staff that are and-or have engaged in employment in the private sector while being serving members of the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52822/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I would refer the Deputy in this regard to Defence Forces Regulation (DFR) A7 paragraphs 16-23. Of particular note in this instance is Para 20D which states:

"Where it comes to the notice of Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) that a member of the Permanent Defence Forces is engaged in off-duty employment which is likely to prove detrimental or prejudicial to the best interests of the service, he may take such measures as may appear to him/her necessary and desirable to terminate or limit the scope of such employment".

Unit Commanders are obliged to manage personnel under their command to ensure compliance with DFRs. Any breaches of DFRs are dealt with appropriately through normal Defence Forces administrative and/or disciplinary measures.

Air Corps

Ceisteanna (96)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

96. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the way in which and-or the procedures the chief medical officer in the Air Corps makes requests to civilian general practitioners and-or hospitals in respect of serving officers medical files and-or medical history; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52823/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I am informed by the military authorities that, in general, when communicating with civilian general practitioners and/or hospitals in respect of serving officers' medical files and or medical history, a letter is drafted to the appropriate medical practitioner.  This letter is then posted to that medical practitioner.

On occasion, where no reply has been received, the Air Corps Medical Officer will follow this up with a telephone call or an email.

A copy of the letter is placed in the patient's medical file for future reference.

Air Corps

Ceisteanna (97)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

97. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the date on which and the reason a person (details supplied) was discharged from the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53106/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I am advised by the military authorities that the individual in question was discharged on the 13 December 2019. For reasons of confidentiality I am not in a position to provide further information.

Defence Forces Expenditure

Ceisteanna (98)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

98. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the food budget of the Defence Forces equates to €4.35 per day while the budget per prisoner is €6.25; and his views in relation to same. [52725/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

A wide range of non-capital goods and services are procured directly by the Defence Forces. These include items associated with day to day operations such as food, clothing, transport, utilities and the maintenance of equipment. The services of the Office of Government Procurement and centralised framework agreements are also used to acquire items that may be in common demand by a number of Departments.

I am advised by the military authorities that the Office of Government Procurement has put framework contract arrangements in place for major food procurements for the Defence Forces and other public services bodies, including the Irish Prison Service. The centralised framework contract arrangements allow for the procurement of fish, dairy, frozen foods, meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables, bread and eggs.  

Defence Force personnel are entitled to avail of daily meals "rations" in certain circumstances which include personnel engaged in security duties, approved training courses, on operational exercises and single personnel living in barracks. I am advised by the military authorities that the daily ration rate equates to €4.20 per day, while the overall budget for food expenditure by the Defence Forces was €4 million in 2019.  I am assured by the military authorities that the food procured under the Office of Government Procurement's centralised framework arrangements is to an acceptable standard.

The Deputy will be aware that the daily food budget per prisoner is a matter for my colleague, Mr. Charles Flanagan, T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality and I am not in a position to comment. I am satisfied that the procurement of food by the Defence Forces using the centralised framework arrangements sourcing model is consistent with Government procurement policy and is designed to achieve better value for money and there are no plans to change this.

Defence Forces Expenditure

Ceisteanna (99)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

99. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the defence budget, specifically Vote 36, is on profile; if not, the extent of the variation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53295/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Vote 36 Defence was allocated a gross funding provision of €758 million for 2019.

Gross expenditure at the end of November 2019 was €594 million, representing 78% of the Defence Vote allocation. This level of expenditure was some €91 million (13%) behind expenditure profiles, at this point.

There is a number of significant expenditure projects planned to advance before year-end and it is expected that expenditure outturn will be substantially in line with provision at year-end.

Brexit Negotiations

Ceisteanna (100)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

100. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on Brexit discussions at the most recent Foreign Affairs Council meeting. [52989/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Brexit was discussed at the European Council, which met in Article 50 formation on 13 December, but it was not an item for discussion at the Foreign Affairs Council. In its conclusions on Brexit, the European Council reiterated its commitment to an orderly UK withdrawal on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement and called for its timely ratification and effective implementation.

At its meeting of 13 December, the European Council reconfirmed its desire to establish the closest possible future relationship with the UK in line with the Political Declaration and based on a balance of rights and obligations and to ensure a level playing field. 

To this end, the European Council has invited the European Commission to come forward with a comprehensive mandate for the EU-UK future relationship immediately after Brexit takes place. The General Affairs Council will adopt the relevant decisions and negotiating mandate. 

Ireland has consistently supported the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK, in the interests of Ireland, North and South, and British-Irish relations, as well as in terms of our economic and trading priorities.  We also have signigicant interests in ensuring adequate level playing field provisions to facilitate fair competition.   

Alongside our EU partners, we welcome the Commission's decision to reappoint Michel Barnier for the negotiations on the future relationship. These negotiations will continue to take pace in a manner of unity and transparency with all Member States and the European Council.  

The European Council will follow negotiations closely and will agree further political decisions as necessary.  Between European Council meetings, the General Affairs Council and COREPER, assisted by a dedicated working party, it will ensure that the negotiations are conducted in line with the overall positions and principles agreed by the European Council as well as the Council's negotiating mandate, with the aim of reaching a result that is fair for all Member States and in the interest of our citizens.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (101)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

101. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has discussed the next steps following the general election in the UK on the withdrawal treaty Bill with his UK counterpart. [53345/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The Taoiseach and I, and our colleagues in Government, look forward to meeting with the new UK Government in the coming weeks. 

The Taoiseach spoke with Prime Minister Johnson on Friday last and they will meet in person as soon as is possible.  For my part, I look forward to meeting with the UK Foreign Secretary, early in 2020, to discuss mutual interests and shared global challenges. 

In addition, the two Governments are also continuing to work together closely to secure the return to operation of all of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement again. I am working intensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith MP, to support the political parties in Northern Ireland in reaching an agreement that will achieve this.

We welcome the new British Government’s intention to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement as soon as possible, starting with the return of a Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the House of Commons later this week.  

Ireland wants to see the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK, while also ensuring level playing field provisions to facilitate fair competition. Ireland will be engaged in all stages of the negotiations in order to ensure that our priorities and interests are appropriately reflected in the EU’s position.

International Agreements

Ceisteanna (102)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

102. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the intergovernmental declaration on children, youth and climate change presented at the UNFCCC 25th conference of the parties; if Ireland will sign the declaration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52805/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Climate change is a key priority articulated in the Government’s policy for international development, A Better World.  My Department has been proactively involved in Ireland’s preparation and contribution to 25th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP25), including active engagement in discussions on adaptation to climate change – an issue which is of utmost importance for people on the frontline of climate impacts.  My Department supported the attendance of young people from Ireland at COP25 and, following the change of venue to Madrid, the participation of civil society from Latin America.

Shortly before COP25, Ireland was asked to join an intergovernmental declaration on children, youth and climate change led by UNICEF.  Following consultation with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, the lead Department on climate action, and with reference to existing Irish legislation in relation to the protection of the environment, it was established that Ireland would be unable to sign the intergovernmental declaration in its current form at COP25.

Diplomatic Representation

Ceisteanna (103)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

103. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will consider expanding the diplomatic footprint further in 2020 by increasing the number of embassies globally; if Georgia will be considered as a location for such a new embassy in view of its strategic importance in the region, its strong values and support towards the EU and its geographical location as the gateway between the EU and Asia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52915/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland’s diplomatic footprint is guided by Global Ireland 2025 which aims to double the scope and impact of our global footprint. 

Since the launch of Global Ireland last year my Department has been working closely with the Department of the Taoiseach and a range of other Government partners to ensure effective delivery.

On July 8th, the Taoiseach and I hosted a summit in Dublin Castle to mark one year since the launch of the plan bringing together key stake holders from across Government and civil society to review progress to date and to set priorities for the year ahead. A detailed Progress Report was published concurrently with the summit and is available on www.gov.ie.

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. The expansion will continue in the year ahead with Embassies in Kyiv, Manila and Rabat.

Our new Missions are working to enhance Ireland’s international visibility; promote our prosperity, build new community and political contacts; protect and advance Ireland’s interests and values; and deliver on our commitments under Ireland’s new policy for International Development ‘A Better World’. A critical component of the Global Ireland programme is identifying new opportunities to diversify our markets in a post-Brexit world.

Ireland enjoys excellent relations with Georgia and at present, our bilateral relationship with Georgia is fostered through our Embassy in Sofia. The Global Ireland strategy outlines the expansion of our diplomatic network up to 2025, and while Georgia is not currently one of the countries earmarked for the opening of an Irish Embassy, the possibility for new Embassies is considered on an ongoing basis.

Ireland is supportive of Georgia’s EU aspirations and together with the EU we continue to reaffirm our 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. 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. Ireland is a strong supporter of the Eastern Partnership that aims to promote peace and stability in the region and to enhance economic and political integration between the participating countries and the EU.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (104)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

104. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department was represented at the 2nd International Conference on Christian Persecution convened by the Government of Hungary and held in Budapest on 26 to 28 November 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52917/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

My Department did not attend the 2nd International Conference on Christian Persecution convened by the Government of Hungary on 26 to 28 November. The EU was represented at the conference by the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, Ján Figel, who addressed the conference underlining the EU’s commitment to freedom of religion or belief.

During November, my Department attended two other international meetings on freedom of religion or belief in The Hague: the 7th Meeting of the Istanbul Process on combatting religious intolerance and the 11th Meeting of the International Contact Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, of which Ireland is a member.

Ireland strongly condemns all forms of persecution on the basis of religion or belief, irrespective of where they occur or who the victims are. We are committed to promoting freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities. This commitment to promoting freedom of religion or belief is reaffirmed in the Global Island: Ireland’s Foreign Policy for a Changing World.

Ireland has co-sponsored resolutions on freedom of religion or belief at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019 and the 74th session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee in November 2019. As mentioned, we are also a member of the International Contact Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief which is an informal cross-regional network which aims to encourage information sharing and cooperation between governments to discuss joint advocacy strategies.

Ireland also works within an EU context to address the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. The EU's policy in this area is led by the Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which were adopted during our Presidency in 2013. The EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy includes a commitment to the promotion of freedom of religion or belief.

Humanitarian Aid

Ceisteanna (105)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

105. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to support the development of democracy in Sudan; his plans to provide humanitarian assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53044/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland has warmly welcomed the power sharing agreement reached on 17 August and the subsequent establishment of a civilian-led transitional Government, led by Prime Minister Hamdok. This followed months of protest.  I commend the African Union for its robust leadership and facilitation of the agreement, with Ethiopia playing an important part in mediating the talks.  

As an expression of its strong political support for the changes underway in Sudan the EU signed the 17 August agreement as a witness.  Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to support a civilian-led transition in Sudan.  

Assuring Sudan's long-term stability will require the inclusion of all elements of society, notably women and youth, in the transition process.  In this regard, I welcome the appointment of four women Ministers in Sudan’s new Government, including its first ever female Foreign Minister, and the appointment of a woman as chief of the judiciary. I also welcome the establishment of an investigation into the violent crackdown against protesters in Khartoum on 3 June – it is imperative that this investigation is independent and transparent, in order to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable.  

While recent events give cause for optimism, significant challenges remain.  Some are political: Sudan’s military signed the power sharing agreement only under intense external pressure.  The leaders of long running insurgencies in Darfur, Blue Nile State and South Kordofan rejected the 17 August agreement, with peace talks between the Government of Sudan and rebel leaders ongoing.  

Sudan’s current economic outlook is of pressing concern. Basic commodities are in short supply, with queues for basic food items and fuel, and severe levels of food insecurity and malnutrition across the country.  

Significant support, including from Ireland and the EU, is required in order to assist Sudan in its transition and to ensure that the humanitarian situation arising from economic and other challenges are addressed.  Prime Minister Hamdok attended the November Foreign Affairs Council.  EU Foreign Ministers, including the Tánaiste, reaffirmed the EU’s strong political commitment to supporting his civilian transitional Government, as well as the EU’s readiness to provide financial aid for the transition. The EU supports wider efforts to enable Sudan's transitional Government to secure debt relief, access to finance and foreign investment, as part of that country's transformation process.

This month’s Foreign Affairs Council adopted Conclusions on Sudan which reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to accompanying Sudan as it implements the necessary political, economic and social reforms path required to make the transition to democracy a success. Building democratic institutions, ensuring respect for the rule of law, and strengthening democratic actors is an integral part of achieving peace and economic recovery.  

Since 2012, Ireland has provided almost €30 million in direct humanitarian assistance to Sudan through UN, NGO and Red Cross partners.  This year, over €3.6 million in Irish funding was provided, including to Irish NGOs to assist them in reaching the most vulnerable.  Through Irish Aid’s rapid response mechanism, an experienced Irish nutrition advisor was deployed to work with UNICEF in Khartoum coordinating the nutrition response across the country.  In response to the violence surrounding the transition, Ireland gave targeted support to the Sudan Humanitarian Fund to help address the medical needs of those affected.  

Ireland is a significant contributor to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Sudan Humanitarian Fund, which has allocated $55.7 million so far in 2019 to support the complex and ongoing crisis in Sudan.  Through this mechanism, our contribution is pooled with other donors, facilitating a single, unearmarked fund which can support the highest priority projects put forward by the best placed partner on the ground.  This year, the number of people in need targeted through this fund increased from 5.5 million to 7.8 million.  The fund supported humanitarian responses in the areas of health, shelter, child protection, gender based violence and psychosocial support, nutrition, water, sanitation and education.  

My officials continue to actively monitor political developments and the humanitarian situation in Sudan, including through Ireland’s Embassy in Nairobi, in cooperation with the EU Delegation in Khartoum, and through Ireland’s strategic engagement with the OCHA donor support group and as co-chair of the ICRC donor group.

Official Engagements

Ceisteanna (106)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

106. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to invite his Spanish counterpart to Dublin in early 2020 for a bilateral meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53336/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

At present there is no visit to Dublin by my Spanish counterpart scheduled for the early months of 2020. However, I was delighted to attend the Asia Europe Meeting of Foreign Ministers which was hosted by the Spanish Foreign Ministry in Madrid earlier this week.

Spain is a greatly valued partner for Ireland. I will continue to engage closely with my Spanish and other EU counterparts both bilaterally and at EU level throughout the coming year.

Passport Services

Ceisteanna (107)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

107. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the cost of a passport for a senior citizen; when the scheme of free passports for senior citizens was abolished; the estimated cost of re-establishing the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53352/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The current Irish passport fee for persons 18 years of age or over is €75 for applications made through the Passport Online service and €80 for a paper based application made via paper. A decision was taken in the 2005 budget to exempt applicants aged 65 and over from the passport fee. Passport fees for applicants aged 65 and over were reintroduced in the budget of December 2010 with effect from April 2011.

Passport Online is the most secure and convenient way available to all adults and children who wish to renew their passport from anywhere in the world and for first time passport applicants who are resident in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

I requested my officials to review the cost of the standard ten-year adult Irish passport and to compare it to the cost of a similar passport in other jurisdictions. I am satisfied that, at a cost of €75 for an application made via Passport Online, which breaks down to €7.50 per year, the Irish passport fee compares favourably with services offered elsewhere. For example, an adult would have to pay €10 per year for a British passport, €8.60 per year for a French passport, €13 per year for an American passport and €18.50 per year for an Australian passport.

Based on the volume of passports issued in 2018, the Passport Service has calculated the potential annual cost of eliminating the passport application fee for applicants aged 65 and over to be approximately €5.5m. Given that any shortfall in revenue would have to be met by the taxpayer, a decision to waive or reduce the application fee for any category of applicant would require careful consideration.